[I had hoped to write some short stories starting from the second half of 1997, and I would have used an alternative notebook for this purpose than the one in which I had usually made notes. The first part of this next piece is a fragment of the type of material that was supposed to fill the entire notebook, but immediately after the end of the short piece of fiction, I changed direction.]
“Why do you commit yourself …” I started, but then lifted my head off the pillow to make sure Tammy was awake before continuing. “Why do you commit yourself,” I repeated, “to the terror of time?” Satisfied, my head sank back on the pillow. A moment later I pushed myself up again, “Do you commit yourself to the terror of time?”
To give her time to process my sober morning poetry, I leant over to the VCR and pressed a video into the slot. A technical problem mangled the Springboks’ recent victory into a movie from the twenties, with Mickey Mouse commentary. I glanced in her direction, and lit a cigarette.
Seemingly unimpressed by my question, she put her hand in a packet of crisps lying next to the bed. I started fidgeting with the VCR again. Better picture this time, no comment.
“What exactly is your problem with suburbia?” she suddenly asked. Before I could answer, she interrupted me …
[“Tammy” interrupted me? The truth is that I didn’t need anyone to interrupt me; I usually couldn’t wait to do so myself. For the next few months I alternated my writing between the following series of points – which started on the same page as the “Tammy” story, another few story fragments, and the entries and notes that preceded this text. The points in this section are only a selection of the original line-up.]
I am an African, an Azanian, a Boer. An ethnic BOER of the Republic of AZANIA.
“Kto, kgo?” asked Lenin. “Who [masters] whom?”
Korea caused me to regard things I had previously felt bound to as no longer applicable, and things I previously gave no second thought I now consider to be important.
Here follow some relevant ideas, and a few other thoughts:
* The god of the Old Testament was untouchable, too distant. The Israelites just wanted to have had a tangible god – or did they want to make God tangible? Did they not understand the difference? Nevertheless, they were forced to swallow down their melted and crushed god with some river water. And to think they had offered their best jewellery to be used in the creation of their god.
* Socrates believed that careful questioning can lead to the discovery and elimination of falsehoods that are regularly presented as truth. He constantly confronted his colleagues about their definitions of justice, law, and beauty, and in this way forced them in the direction of answers that became increasingly clearer.
* The latter is called the dialectical method – a procedure in which the truth is pursued through dialogue, or through purposeful discussion.
* Socrates also believed that knowledge stems from doubt, and persistently asked questions and tested answers that people had given him.
* For Socrates, the “real purpose of life” was to know the truth, rather than to pursue the pleasures of the body.
* I’m not currently searching for the “truth”. I am more concerned with a search for my own identity and an ideal lifestyle, and how this identity and lifestyle compare with what my contemporaries regard as important; also, questions regarding the nature of power – politically and personally, and how I’m going to get together R100,000 to buy myself out of debt slavery and keep myself liberated.
* The first phase of my life can loosely be described as a period of Christian fundamentalism; the second part can be described as an intellectual period – doubt, scepticism, a questioning of the values with which I grew up. This second period of my life is somewhat of a nomadic existence during which I am becoming a “different person” to the one I used to be.
* “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life,” Benedict de Spinoza said.
* “Go not abroad; retire into yourself, for truth dwells in the inner man,” thus says Augustine.
* The self-interview is according to Jim Morrison the core, the essence of creativity. To ask yourself questions, and then to try and find answers. You confront yourself with questions. Answers in such an exercise must be explicit, accurate and direct. Once you have said something, you cannot go back. The moment you have given an answer (whether you like your answer or not), is according to this man an important moment in your existence.
* Why am I seeking knowledge and not love? Knowledge is liberating; knowledge is power; knowledge counters fear; knowledge leads to understanding; knowledge can’t be taken away by the bailiff. Knowledge is, however, not such a good antidote to loneliness. Knowledge doesn’t warm your bed on cold nights.
* Hegel said that if a man finds a job that suits him and a woman who loves him, he will have settled his account with life.
* People should refrain from a marriage that cannot save their children from humiliating poverty, because poverty is a great evil, Charles Darwin wrote.
* Miguel de Cervantes said he would rather eat a crust of bread and an onion alone in a corner than to eat a fat turkey at another man’s table, where he would be forced to chew slowly, drink little, wipe his mouth every minute, not sneeze or cough, or do other things that are the privileges of freedom and solitude.
* What we know is little compared to what we do not know – anyone, in this case, Plato.
* Ever since I can remember, I had a yearning for the timeless classic, the “eternal”, and I regarded the transient “new” with far less respect. Examples of the timeless include religion, history, wisdom, old things that have stood the test of time. And since we’re on this topic, this is also the reason why I turned away from the path of Christian fundamentalism – the cloak of timelessness, of immortality to which I had held onto as a child gave off a very “human” colour that became all too visible at a certain period of my life.
* Aristotle: “First, have a definite, clear, practical ideal – a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends – wisdom, money, materials and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”
* Who you were when you were twelve will always be relevant, because the factors that had influenced you at that stage made you what you are today (09/12) … today (9/13) … today (09/14). You cannot just get up tomorrow and be someone who had been shaped by other factors. This is not to say that you cannot transform yourself, and starting from today or tomorrow be someone with … well, opinions and plans that are slightly different from the opinions and plans you had yesterday, or that you cannot behave in a different manner.
* “Masters of simplification; refusing to be impressed by the complexity of problems.” [From Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, by Alan Bullock; opinion about both Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.]
* “It seemed that things weren’t the way they were meant to be – like the way my old man was living … and the life that was waiting for me. But even if you find those things out, it’s so hard to change those things. And it wasn’t until I started listening to the radio and I heard something in those singers’ voices that there was more to life than what my old man was doing and the life that I was living. And they held out a promise, and it was a promise that every man has a right to live his life with some decency and some dignity. And it’s a promise that get’s broken every day, in the most violent way. But it’s a promise that never, ever dies, and it’s always inside of you.” [Bruce Springsteen, quoted from Glory Days: The Bruce Springsteen Story, by Dave Marsh]
[At this point, I started writing two short stories, and then the following piece of text:]
There are several castes, or classes, into which people can be divided. The position in which you find yourself at a specific time determines the value of your life. There are people whose lives are simply worth more to society than other people’s lives.
Who, other than my immediate family, and perhaps a small group of friends will suffer loss at my death? I play only a small role in society, and if I don’t fill the space that I currently do, there will be thousands like me who could take my place, who could even make a better job of it (who will, for example, return their mailbox keys and pay the debts they had incurred). In fact, I have no real value to society. What I am is someone who borrows money – an indigent debtor.
I hate the creditors, because I want to be in their position but I’m not! I hate the rich, because I want to be rich but I’m not!
Humanism is a doomed ideology, because it is based on the erroneous assumption that every human life is precious. It is not! Some are more disposable than others!
I hate poverty. I hate debt. I would like to see the creditors crawl before me with mud on their faces! Then I, too, will just shrug my shoulders and say, “Sorry, that’s the rule.”
Not everyone can fit in the ideal world that is presented to all of us, but we borrow money and we make debt on their terms to be part of their world. Fuck their world! It’s anyways not even a dream; it’s a nightmare!
* “In other words, if other geographic factors are equal, the key to human progress is accessibility and interaction. Those people who are the most accessible and who have the most opportunity to interact with other people are the most likely to forge ahead. Those who are isolated and receive no stimulus from the outside are likely to stand still.” [From The World Since 1500, by L.S. Stavrianos]
* “The search for profit, when it’s unconstrained and free from public control, will naturally try to repress people’s lives as much as possible. The executives wouldn’t be doing their jobs otherwise.” [From Secrets, Lies and Democracy, by Noam Chomsky]
* “The retreat into individualism and personal gain is the basis for political apathy.” [Ibidem]
* “Unregulated capitalism is the enemy of human solidarity, and every economic system must be measured by the demands of social justice.” [Shared conviction of Fidel Castro and Pope John Paul II – from Time, 19 January 1998]
* “With the inception of rudimentary cultivation and the domestication of animals, people moved inland and became more sedentary. Along with a greater reliance on cultivation came an increase in population. […] During this time kinship relationships [developed] and blood clans [exchanged] goods and [started to intermarry]. Superior cultivation techniques, advances in tools and weapons, greater variety in the preparation of foods, storehouses, and objects of decoration and veneration indicate a growing sophistication. […] They developed a more advanced society that gave rise to specialized occupations, formalized social relationships, and some sort of order and rule of law. These clans grew in number and size, evolving into associated clan groups and tribes. [Animist beliefs] became more important, [and] the responsibility for the activities and interpretation of this quasi-religion was taken over by shamans who developed prestige and power within the community, and may have become chiefs or respected elders. […] Advanced technology, metallurgy, more developed agricultural practices [and] animal husbandry [led] people to establish permanent settlements in river basins and upland regions. They established a social hierarchy of commoner, privileged class and leader. […] Tribal units developed into walled-town states where territory, not blood or relationship, was the dominant cohesive factor. Eventually, these began to form larger confederations, with one group among them becoming most influential […] [The introduction of] iron [allowed] for improved agricultural implements [and greater food production], more numerous weapons, and the ability to use wood more effectively. Because of the increase in population and the movements of people, warfare became common, causing shifting alliances and areas of control.” [From South Korea Handbook, by Robert Nilsen, pp 12-13]
* Everyone knows something that someone else doesn’t know. Acknowledge this, and you will be able to engage in positive relationships with people from all backgrounds.
* There are times in one’s life that are like a magnifying glass: Everything you say, everything you do, everything you experience, looks and is considered more important and more significant. I am currently experiencing one of those times.
* One thing I have learned in my life so far is how important it is to have choices, and to have the ability and resources to act on choices made. There are always people who can do it, and people who cannot do it. Those who suffer a lack of executable choices are, in many cases, directly or indirectly, the servants of those who do have choices and who can act on them. Once you have learned this, you stand before a choice: On what side of the line do you want to be? If you do not consciously choose to be counted among those who make choices as well as act on their choices, you will inevitably be numbered among the other group.
* The factor that makes the biggest difference between the most recent manifestation of The Plan and previous variants is the radical concept of commitment – the fact that I am totally committed to this goal. The idea of finding myself in a situation where I’ll be committed to something in my own country, among my own people, in my own culture, with opportunities to study other regional languages and experience other regional cultures, and to travel to countries by train or bus which some people here have never even heard of is enough to intoxicate oneself with enthusiasm. It is also true that my own country is the land of creditors, bailiffs, bank managers, thousands of members of the petit bourgeoisie, and a few people you do not necessarily want to stay in touch with; the country where middle-class mediocrity is just a sigh away …
Postscript (from a note dated 27 October 1997 at 15:42)
“It’s not that I think I won’t be able to stay here for eight more months, it’s that I am wondering if I’m not wasting my time. I have so many questions that require answers, so much knowledge that I want to pursue, and it’s endlessly frustrating when I think I have to wait eight more months before I can ask the right people the questions, and search for the knowledge in the right places.”