Nope, you can’t have everything (and that means everyone)

The question of electricity (and where it comes from) has been much on the minds of South Africans lately.

Ongoing entrenched problems at the nation’s power utility mean we suffer from “loadshedding” – rotational power cuts, aimed at preventing the national grid from collapse. (There’s a good explainer here).

The latest round of these power cuts happened at around the same time as sustained international news coverage of COP26 and the climate crisis.
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Life’s compasses: What I learned from Terry Pratchett

Earlier this year, I set out to write about the things that are my life’s compasses, and the directions they have sent me in, with the hope that some of the things I have learned will be of help to other people.

Previously: Life’s compasses: What I learned from Star Wars

Today, the guide we follow is fantasy writer Terry Pratchett. Literary snobs look down on fantasy, and they are often right, But, as observed by science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon: “ninety percent of everything is crap”. Pratchett is in the 10% that is wonderful. In his Discworld series, he reflects on humanity and its failings and triumphs, with a deep and compassionate insight – and with a storytelling power to rival Dickens.
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Blind faith will get you killed

In the mid-1980s, Bruce Springsteen covered the song War as a protest against the Reagan administration’s aggressive foreign policy in Central America.

The song has a venerable protest history. It was a counterculture-era soul song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Motown label in 1969. Whitfield first produced the song – an obvious anti-Vietnam War statement – with The Temptations as the original vocalists.

It was performed in concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in 1985. Springsteen released the September 30, 1985 performance as a part of his 1986 box set, Live/1975–85. Springsteen also performed the song in the early days of the Iraq War.

I’ve been thinking about this song not because I have a particular war on my mind. The song is preceded by a spoken preamble, which turned up on my random Springsteen shuffle the other day. The Boss says:

“If you grew up in the ’60s, you grew up with war on TV every night, a war that your friends were involved in. And… I want to do this song tonight for all the young people out there, if you’re in your teens… I remember a lot of my friends when we were 17 or 18, we didn’t have much of a chance to think about how we felt about a lot of things.
“And the next time, they’re going to be looking at you. And you’re going to need a lot of information to know what you’re going to want to do. Because, in 1985, blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed. What I’m talking about here is . . . WAR!”

It was that concluding phrase that leapt out at me:

Because, in 1985, blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed.

In 1985, in the context of the Cold War, that line makes perfect sense. It meant: don’t trust politicians; don’t trust people who want power; choose your leaders carefully. And that’s a bedrock rule for many people, all over the world, myself included.

But what does blind faith, and having it or not having it, look like in 2021?

The jolt I felt from that sentence pushed me to think about all this a little more deeply. People on both sides of the Covid-19 vaccination debate accuse each other of believing something without thinking it through. Pro-vaxxers say anti-vaxxers take fake news and misinformation and disinformation at face value. Anti-vaxxers say that pro-vaxxers are taking the pronouncements of the medical establishment at face value.

I know which side I fall on (pro-vaccination), but I needed to tease out where my faith in the medical establishment comes from. So I looked up the phrase “blind faith”. There’s a lot of debate about it, much of it religion based. A distinction that resonated with me was this:

Yet you can have faith in someone or something based on experience; blind faith is faith based on no experience. If a friend has never revealed secrets in the past, I can have faith that he will not reveal them in the future. To trust someone I don’t know at all with secrets would be to act on “blind” faith.

There is my answer. I have decades of experience and reading that tells me that the medical establishment (generally) has my best interests at heart. I have been helped by modern medicine, as have many people I know.

I am happy to put my faith in them. Blind faith, in this case, might in fact get me killed.

The Boss, as always, gives good advice.

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Main picture: Joseph Chan on Unsplash

How a village makes us all human

It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child.*

In the case of my own son, it takes a playgroup.

I had Jack when I was a career-oriented, control-freaky 40 year old. I knew I was a prime candidate for post-natal depression and knew that I was going to have to look for and take all the support I could get.
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