Archive for March, 2019

Democracy and the Long Term view

In the light of the state of the world’s insects and the voices of babes and sucklings in Psalm 8, I found this article interesting:

Out of the mouths….

Psalm 8 speaks to humankind: Out of the mouths: a rebuke

What world are you creating for me today?
What world are you creating for my tomorrow?

Look at the stars

  • The greedy man says
    • I have seen them on my vacations.
  • The needy man says
    • I have no energy to see them.
  • The world leader says
    • I do not need them.
  • (What do you say?)

They tell us how very speck-like and isolated you, me and the earth are;
They tell us to be humble.
I see them
Look! Look!

Listen to the earth

  • The greedy man says
    • The earth is my plaything.
  • The needy man says
    • I can only hear my own needs.
  • The world leader says
    • Next year, after the election.
  • (What do you say?)

The earth and all that is in it is groaning; moaning pitifully under your torture
I hear it
Listen! Listen!

All on the earth; all under the stars –

Look, and Listen

See, and Hear

And together – do what it is in your ordained power to do

  • for me
  • for the earth, and all that is in it
  • for today
  • for tomorrow
  • for my tomorrow.

The state of the world’s insects

Having just had brought to my attention a recent report on the devastating decline in the numbers of insects on our planet that is mainly due to intensive farming, I confess to a heightened state of alarm. I was aware of declines especially among bees, but its extent and pervasiveness was very bad news to this latecomer.

I am already engaged in activities to do with plastics pollution, climate change and tobacco damage to the planet. Adding the status of insects and associated chemical pollution to this already demanding list makes me feel that side shows such as Brexit and trade wars have little meaning when we face devastation within the lifetime of my grandchildren. These threats demand the attention and focus of us all. It is very heartening to hear the voices of children now coming up strongly around climate change.

How we eat, how we move around, how we share, how we relax and recreate, how and what we clean, how we view our fellow creatures on our planet: all of these and more require re-thinking.

Nothing is as it was. Everything must change, and those like me who are the ‘haves’ and ‘have too much’s bear and must recognise that they/we bear the greatest responsibility to change – fast, and extensively.

An interesting juxtaposition

Where are we headed as humanity? I rather enjoy books that look back, look the present in the eye and look forward. Jared Diamond’s books are a good read, giving pause. Collapse gives climate change a grim context. Alvin Toffler’s Futureshock I read when I was a teenager. I only remember the ‘Mozart on the run’ chapter now: we were playing music at ever faster speeds, he told us.

I have just completed reading Yuval Harari’s Homo Deus, having found it on my son’s bookshelf last year. A fascinating read, the book analyses trends in early 21st century science, thought and especially digital developments. There are twin theses: humans are not special, and we are moving towards a world (a galaxy?) in which humans (merely a set of algorithms) are either unnecessary or a means to an end for silicon – based artificial intelligence (AI) for which consciousness is an optional extra. Harari does not say that this de-humanised future is inevitable; he points to its possibility and implications for the present.

The book is large so I did not take it on my overnight trip for child health-related meetings in Johannesburg. I opened my Free Books app and started to read The Machine Stops by EM Forster that I had previously downloaded. There we are ‘in the Machine’, satisfied on a diet of all that we want (if we hadn’t been weeded out at birth), including tablets to establish emotional equilibrium and peace of mind. Humans live on their own, underground sequestered from each other. The surface is no longer fit for human habitation – climate change or pollution? We were happy with the Machine. We even give it god-like properties.

Climate change, elites working with AI to survive, then taken over by AI. 1909, 2016 – an artist and a social commentator/analyst/future gazer imagine and see a lot in common. Only connect.

For me as a Christian, I relish the double- even triple-think that going into Forster’s and Harai’s territory requires. AI would understand. Double-think, of course, is an invention of George Orwell in another dystopia – 1984. Perfectly legitimate and approved of by the authorities.

The Rhine is fine

I had a lovely splurge of Wagner the other day. I watched an orchestra playing an arrangement of the highlights (best bits) from The Ring of the Nibelung. It started in the Rhine (‘in it!’, as Anna Russell emphasised). This is a long, long crescendo in E flat major that starts deep in the orchestra. I wondered whether the Rhine would change colour from E flat major to E major as flowed from the deep ever more strongly. I can happily report that it did not. The Rhine is fine.

The Valkyries still ride in B minor, I am happy to report.

The Rainbow Bridge over which the Gods make their harp-filled entrance into Valhalla was rather wobbly between G flat major and G major. I could shift what I was hearing between the two keys at will. I feared for the Gods’ future.

Samson is Strong

Well, technically it was Delilah in this instance. I was driving to the accompaniment of Delilah (in the form of a Russian mezzo-soprano) singing ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix’, from Saint Saens’ opera ‘Samson and Delilah’, with its sinuous descending scale tune. I was enjoying the composer’s wonderful skill and the soprano’s interpretation thereof when it occurred to me that I was hearing it in Saint Saens’ chosen key of D flat major. No suggestion of neighbouring D major. Samson and I were seduced by D flat major all over again.

Scent of the Plague

These two pictures are of an article I wrote published by the Mail and Guardian newspaper in 2001 during the terrible crescendo of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. It played a small part in the eventual arrival of a Prevention of Mother to Child HIV Transmission programme in South Africa.

To read the text, I suggest that you download the pictures and enlarge them in your picture program.

If you want to hear more of the history-making fight for this programme, see Prof Haroon Saloojee’s short lecture, given at the South African Child health priorities conference in 2016. A paediatrician, he played a key role in the civil society challenge to the government of the day.

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