Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Vegan Pagan's Prayer

I found the most beautiful prayer on this website and had to share:

A Vegan Pagan's Prayer

Lord of the forest and field, Lady of the starlit night,
I acknowledge the truth that for me to live, something must die.
I give thanks for the gift of free will,
And I acknowledge the responsibility that comes with the freedom of choice.

I choose then to abstain from the cycle of unnecessary suffering.
I pledge to be an agent of healing, not a bystander to slaughter.
I say to the animals:
You do not have to suffer and die for me.
I say to the workers:
You do not have to kill for me.
I say to the corporate death machine:
You will no longer profit from my blindness.
I say to the Earth, and to all that is holy,
That though we are taught to feast upon war,
I choose to lay down the sword
And take in peace instead.
I ally myself with Nature, not as her master, but as her child.
I will not claim dominion over that which is wiser than I.

Lord of the forest and field, Lady of the starlit night,
May compassion fulfill and transform me
May I give as You give, may I love as You love
And may my choices bring grace to my life
As You bring grace to the world.

So mote it be.

Picture from here

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

And yet more Zuma, or, The Protector of Other People's Virtue

Once again, Mr Zuma has shown his utter contempt for the Constitution, and for human rights, by stating that we must make children pray before school.

I am flabbergasted.  I commented as follows on the article:

"So do we start fearing God once we've finished committing adultery or trying to wheedle our way out of facing the court on criminal charges? And which religion are we going to force on schoolkids? Will the ANC decide? Is this all part of a grand plan to brainwash our kids, starting by taking them from uneducated mothers and then forcing religion down their throats? At any rate I would prefer to teach my child to conduct herself according to love and compassion, not fear. Mr Zuma, you have previously shown your bigotry with, among others, your comments about gays, and it appears you say whatever your audience wants to hear. But your contempt for our Constitution is becoming intolerable. Religious freedom is enshrined in the Constitution, and any attempt at infringing upon it by your party will be met with legal action."

I am pleased to say that many other people also expressed their concern - well said Sharon :) - but scarily many people seem all for it.  In fact many people seem to think that his suggestion that "people would consider their actions more carefully if they kept in mind how the departed, or God, or other citizens, would view their behaviour" is correct.  Um, again I am prompted to ask, when did Mr Zuma complete a degree in Social Science, Psychology or Criminology?  Fear is never a good basis for behaviour.  Instilling respect for the rights and dignity of others, however, may go a long way towards promoting positive behaviour among children.  But this would mean that we'd have to start at the top, and that won't be easy.

And again I say, NO-ONE will force my child to say any prayers to anyone, least of all the misguided self-styled protector of our virtue. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Zuma is at it again...

...shooting his mouth off.

Read this gem of well-reasoned discourse. 

I commented as follows:

"What a joke. School dropout is a complex problem and "educating by force" will not solve it. And how pray tell, if our government can't provide free basic education to any decent standard, how will they provide tertiary education for those who cannot pay for it?? Better, safer schools, better infrastructure, more protection and encouragement for children would be good places to start.

Better yet, are we now going to punish teenage mothers by taking their babies away? There is culture of viewing women and girls as objects, and unprotected sex as a man's "right". THAT is what needs to be addressed. But hey, if we take children from their mothers we have a better chance of indoctrinating them."

The man never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps the fact that he had no formal education makes him more sensitive to the difficulties faced by kids in a similar situation, or perhaps I'm trying too hard to justify his ridiculous comments.  Most of our Grade 3s are functionally illiterate, so one may imagine that the matter is a bit more complex than educating people by force??


Friday, October 17, 2008

Looking back

Today is my daughter's 6th birthday. I can't believe that it's been six years since I held a tiny, skinny baby with thick, dark hair and the bluest blue eyes in my arms for the first time.

In that time a tiny baby grew into a talking, thinking, dancing, singing, drawing, playing, story-telling, caring, debating, learning little person with a life and a destiny all her own.

Happy birthday, my beautiful daughter. May life continue to smile on you.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Paging Dr Milgram

The regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I don't really plan these posts. If something gets up my nose I tend to put it on here. My husband insists on reading the often inane, occasionally incomprehensible, and sometimes frankly terrifying posts on MyNews 24 and Thought Leader and sharing these things with me. Today I read this:

And responded as follows:

"Mr Memela, please tell me you are joking. Your profile claims the following about you:
"He believes freedom of thought and expression encourages diversity of opinion and tolerance for the 'other.' He is very sane." That doesn't fit well with this post.

If people blindly follow the group's "authority" and abdicate personal responsibility, the most horrific things can happen:

People committing atrocities in apartheid-era South Africa were also just following orders, instead of listening to the dictates of their conscience, and we are familiar with the terrible results.

Let's not slavishly follow the dictates of the organisation, comprised as it is of humans, and temper our respect for authority with sense, reason and justice."

Later on in discussion with Mr Shnukums I realised that the point put across also seemed to imply that the "conscience" of the organisation may be at odds with that of society, which in this particular case is extremely worrying.

At any rate, I hope Borg-like assimilation is not the actual view or ideal of the ANC.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Negotium Perambulans in Tenebris

I am re-reading a section in my textbook, "HIV/Aids Care and Counselling" by Alta van Dyk, on the symptoms of HIV infection in children. It ain't pretty. I will spare you most of the details but the author stated that it is estimated that 75% of HIV positive children will die before their fifth birthday if they do not receive antiretroviral therapy.

Now today our new president is being elected and it strikes me that, if there was a reason for Mr Mbeki to have been taken to task or "recalled" by the ANC, it should have been the government's inexplicable ostrich-like stand on HIV/Aids and ART. For years the government has dithered while infection rates soared, people died and children lost their parents to the disease. Why is he recalled now? And why, oh why, did Manto not resign? Does she truly believe she will be protected as much by the new president?

At any rate, I have decided that I will punch the next person who says that HIV infection is people's "own fault". Is it also the children's own fault for being born to HIV + mothers? What about rape victims, or people who have to work as sex workers in order to - oh the irony - survive? Or someone infected by an unfaithful partner or spouse? Is it their fault too? Even if someone gets infected with HIV because of irresponsible sexual behaviour, is a protracted death sentence really "what they deserve"? Who can make that judgement? I'd rather not, judge not lest thou be judged and all that.

On a more objective note, the economic impact of HIV/Aids is staggering and will get worse. When our economically productive people fall prey to HIV/Aids, who will produce and transport goods? Who will provide for and look after children and the elderly? Oh wait, we already know this. They will be forced to look after themselves, with little or no government assistance.

I'd like to tie Dr Beetroot to a chair and play her a recording of the entire contents of the textbook, on repeat, ad infinitum.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy Spring Equinox!

Happy Spring Equinox - rather late than never :)

May it be a blessed one and may this be a fruitful and lovely spring for everyone.

I spent the day mainly gardening and eating fabulous things my husband made. When I have time I will post pics of my garden.

As you were

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's the end of the world...

So today the Large Hadron Collider is being fired up. Some people are having "end of the world" parties :) Yes, yes, I know it's only starting up now, don't spoil my fun.

I figured I'd celebrate by actually lightening up and not having a furiously angry or completely depressing blog post for once (despite reading this rather irritating article about Zuma and his silly little friends), and posting an XKCD link here. Of course, it wouldn't be complete without a word of warning from

Besides that I had fun yesterday reading these blogs and thought I should share:

I leave you with some lyrics:

It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) - R.E.M.

That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane -
Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn -
world serves its own needs, regardless of your own needs. Feed it up a knock,
speed, grunt no, strength no. Ladder structure clatter with fear of height,down height.
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games in a government for
hire and a combat site. Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry with the furies
breathing down your neck. Team by team reporters baffled, trump, tethered
crop. Look at that low plane! Fine then. Uh oh, overflow, population,
common group, but it'll do. Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves its
own needs, listen to your heart bleed. Tell me with the rapture and the
reverent in the right - right. You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright
light, feeling pretty psyched.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Six o'clock - TV hour. Don't get caught in foreign tower. Slash and burn,
return, listen to yourself churn. Lock him in uniform and book burning,
blood letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate. Light a candle,
light a motive. Step down, step down. Watch a heel crush, crush. Uh oh,
this means no fear - cavalier. Renegade and steer clear! A tournament,
a tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
and I decline.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

The other night I tripped a nice continental drift divide. Mount St. Edelite.
Leonard Bernstein. Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs.
Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom! You symbiotic, patriotic,
slam, but neck, right? Right.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine...fine...
(It's time I had some time alone)

Cheers, have a drink on me, and remember to wear clean underwear just in case the world ends (Thanks for the heads up, Malcolm)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Of Satanism, scapegoats and human rights part 3: Positive response from the NP

To my surprise, the NP responded very positively to the Pagan community in a press release. I am pleased that they state that Paganism is "wrongly associated with Satanism" and a "force for good in society". Even if I do think they are still confusing Reverse Christianity (which can be a source of problems) with LaVeyan Satanism (which is a valid religious path). However they didn't mention Witchcraft, which was specifically targeted by another NP National Executive member.

September 01, 2008

We have noted with great concern that there is a misunderstanding amongst the Pagan community regarding the NP's statement on Satanism.

We would like to state it unequivocally that the National Party does not hold any ill feeling against the pagan community. On the contrary, the National Party would endeavour upon election to protect the rights of the Pagan community. We understand the response from the Pagan community regarding our policy towards Satanism. It is well known that paganism has wrongly, and to the great detriment of the Pagans, been associated with Satanism by ill-informed officials.

However, the National Party wishes to advise that we fully support freedom of religion and that there would be no witch-hunt of any practitioners of Wicca, Odinic Rite or any of the other Pagan practices. Pagans are welcome to celebrate Imbolc, Beltane or any other festival in public, as long as the particular group does not break any of the laws of the Republic.

The reference to Satanism refers to destructive religion that developed as an inversion of Christian beliefs and is an open worship of evil. Paganism does not worship evil and it is a force for good in society. The senseless killing of a 16-year old boy at a school in Krugersdorp under the alleged influence of Satanism has prompted the suggestion that there should be acted against Satanism.

Finally, again we wish to advise that the Pagan community can rest assured that their rights to worship will be protected by the National Party once we have been elected to office.

We sincerely hope this statement has clarified all misunderstandings regarding our religious policy.

JMT Labuschagne
Spokesperson for Religion & Culture Affairs,


Damon Leff, the convenor of SAPRA, responded as follows:

Dear Mr. JMT Labuschagne / JD Uys

Your press statement of 1 September - - refers.

The South African Pagan Rights Alliance welcomes your statement of tolerance with regard to Paganism in South Africa.

This Alliance notes however that it is, according to correspondence received from Mr. Uys dated 18 August, the intention of the National Party to suppress Witchcraft - an internationally recognised Pagan religion.

Note with reference to accompanying correspondence between myself and Mr Uys dated 18 August.

Clearly the misunderstanding, to which you refer in your press release, wholly belongs to Mr. Uys who, on behalf of the National Party, undertook to promote a religious policy that clearly and plainly intended to discriminate against identified religious minorities - Satanism and Witchcraft.

I therefore seek further clarification regarding the National Party’s religious agenda, in light of statements made by Mr. Uys which contradict your own statements in this regard on the subject of Witchcraft and self-defined Witches in this country.

I look forward to your considered response.

Yours Sincerely

Damon Leff

with reference previous correspondence between Damon Leff and Mr. Uys


Original Message
From: "Damon Leff" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, August 18, 2008 11:12 AM
Subject: National Party Policy on Religion


I note that the National Party has made the following statement on its website:"The National Party respects the practice of all religions in our country, but will not tolerate satanism. The NP will outlaw all practices directly linked to satanism."

I would like to enquire the following:

1. What are the practices "directly linked" to Satanism that the National Party will outlaw?
2. Will the National Party recognise Paganism and Witchcraft as bone-fide religions in South Africa?
Yours Sincerely
Damon Leff

National Party South Africa (NP) wrote:


We will not allow witches to operate in South Africa under NP Government. We and our supporters can not associate ourselves with anything that are linked to Satanism.


Juan-Duval Uys
Member of the NP National Executive.


Original Message
From: "Damon Leff" <>
To: "National Party South Africa (NP)" <>
Sent: Monday, August 18, 2008 12:46 PM
Subject: Re: National Party Policy on Religion

Dear Juan-Duval Uys

I saddens me to see you repeat Nationalist Christian propaganda and discrimination against Witches and Witchcraft in South Africa.

You aught then to be aware of the fact that in South Africa self-defined Witches represent a small but visible religious minority. We have government appointed religious marriage officers and officially recognised religious groups and faith-based organisations. Our own faith-based organisation was formed in 2004 in order to protect the constitutional right to religious freedom and belief of self-defined Pagan Witches and to defend and protect Witchcraft as a bone-fide religion. South African Witches do not self-define as Satanists and do not regard Satanism as a Pagan religion.

The South African Pagan Rights Alliance regards your statement to "not allow witches to operate in South Africa under NP Government" as intent to suppress and discriminate against Witchcraft and Witches in South Africa.

This Alliance will therefore not support the Nationalist Party in any form and will, at every available opportunity, denounce the religious prejudiced policies of the National Party.

Yours Sincerely

Damon Leff

Convener: South African Pagan Rights Alliance


National Party South Africa (NP) wrote:


We dont have a problem with your view on our policy, but we will NEVER regard Satanism or witches as a form of religion.Our major support comes from Christians and Muslims etc, we will never link this party to Satanism or witchcraft. We will make this very clear during elections 2009.

Kind regards

Juan-Duval Uys

Monday, September 1, 2008

Greyhound racing, or, let's take a really crap idea from overseas and inflict it here

This was forwarded to a mailing list I'm on. Please take a moment to read and, should you feel that greyhound racing should remain banned - as I do - please write to Prof Snyman-Van Deventer. Feel free to quote from the Greyhound Crusaders info below.
Greyhound racing research
South African Department of Trade and Industry

26 August 2008

Members of the public who want to submit their inputs regarding the possible legislation of greyhound racing in the country have until the endof October 2008 to do so.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has appointed the University ofthe Free State Faculty of Law, under the supervision of Prof Elizabeth Snyman-Van Deventer, to oversee the process.

Greyhound racing was banned years ago because gambling was regarded as immoral at that time.

Now that gambling has been revisited in the country,there are debates on possible legislation of greyhound racing.

The animal welfare and protection groups are in support of the ban ongreyhound racing, while other role players have been calling for the racingto be reintroduced.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals (NSPCA)says the legalisation and introduction of dog racing into South Africa will result in the suffering, unspeakable living conditions and often untimely and brutal death of thousands of greyhounds.

The research team under Prof Snyman-Van Deventer will hold workshops across the country later this year to gather input from the public. Members of the public can also send their written submissions to Prof Snyman-Van Deventer at 051 401 2698 or send them by e-mail to *** <>*.

For further information, contact Mpho Mosing at 012 394 1504/083 436 5534.

Issued by:Media and Public Relations, the DTI

Director: Sidwell Moloantoa Medupe

Mobile: + 27 (0) 73 522 6801 E-mail:

DTI website:

From a UK-based group:

Why Greyhound Crusaders are so strongly opposed to greyhound racing

Firstly due to the thousands of greyhounds that are destroyed every year once they are retired from racing, average age 3-4 years old. Additionally, thousands of greyhound pups are destroyed each year because they are considered 'unsuitable for racing'. The RSPCA believes: "at least 20 greyhounds a day - either puppies which do not make the track, or 'retired' dogs aged three or four - simply 'disappear', presumed killed" (Please view the recent APGAW (Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare) report at this link:

Also the fact that many greyhounds every year sustain serious, sometimes fatal injuries whilst racing. Additionally, greyhounds have fallen victim to extreme abuse: Greyhounds have been found drowned, poisoned, shot, abandoned, some emaciated, some with their ears hacked off (or burnt off with acid) to remove identifying tattoos. Some greyhounds are subjected to 'drugging' as a way of 'fixing' certain races. Greyhounds taken on by rescuers are often in a poor state of neglect i.e. flea-ridden, worm-ridden, rotten teeth.

We have personally been involved with and assisted others in the rescue of many unwanted racing greyhounds over the past few years and during this time witnessed greyhounds with cigarette burns on their bodies, greyhounds with missing toes due to past injuries, greyhounds who have had to have many of their teeth removed due to previous neglect. Untreated injuries that have poorly healed. The list is endless.

You may have read the horrific story of David Smith from Co. Durham exterminating in the region of 10,000 unwanted greyhounds in a fifteen year period by shooting them callously with a bolt gun and burying them in his back garden. The Sunday Times along with other national newspapers exposed this in 2006.

More recently, the Sunday Times have also exposed two disturbing cases where healthy greyhounds are being sold to veterinary colleges by those involved in the greyhound racing industry, to be exploited for scientific purposes. On Sunday 2nd March 2008, a Sunday Times article exposed the Royal Veterinary College (the oldest and largest veterinary college in Britain) as having an agreement with a greyhound clinic in Essex to buy body parts taken from healthy greyhounds that were being euthanased regularly by the clinic, the healthy greyhounds were being supplied to the clinic by greyhound trainers who no longer had a use for these dogs.

The full article can be viewed here:

On Sunday 11th May 2008, a second article appeared in the Sunday Times, this time exposing Liverpool University's Small Animal Teaching Hospital as being supplied with healthy young greyhounds by the largest greyhound breeder in Britain, a Mr Charles Pickering. Mr Pickering admitted to selling young, perfectly healthy greyhounds who had failed to make the grade (i.e. chose not to chase the artificial hare or considered simply too slow for the tracks) to the university's animal teaching hospital to euthanased and used for scientific research. The article also revealed how greyhound trainer 'Richard Fielding' who was also supplied greyhounds by Mr Pickering, gave his older (still healthy) greyhounds once they retired from racing to the university veterinary staff to be euthanased so their organs could be removed for teaching and research purposes. The full article can be viewed here:

We are sickened and outraged by the appalling atrocities inflicted upon the racing greyhound and this is why we endeavour to educate the general public about the disturbing reality of greyhound racing and why we campaign tirelessly for total abolition.

If you could spare a few moments to please view this short video (volume up), as this supports the many reasons why we are so compelled to be a voice for the greyhounds.

We hope that our correspondence to you today will explain the reasons for our concerns and we would like a ban on greyhound racing for the reasons stated above. Many of the general public are horrified at what happens toman's best friend and it is high time the government did something to stop the thousands of greyhounds being killed every year.

"A noble death", or, a whole lot of bull

I have just read this and responded here

I will freely admit that I am not a philosopher and I do not have time to answer every assertion in the article. I guess my most important question is this: does it even matter whether some people get some aesthetic gratification out of it? Does aesthetic gratification justify inflicting harm on a sentient being who has no choice as to whether he partakes of this spectacle?

If the subject (victim) were human would this article have been written? If so, I think the DSM-IV-TR may have something to say about it, and so may the authorities. If a fight between an animal and a human, where the animal had an equal chance, would be "grotesque", is a bullfight not the same?

And as for the issue of animals not having rights if they cannot be "called upon to uphold those rights for themselves", that is a rather backward notion. Should children and the mentally disabled be denied rights, because they cannot be expected to uphold those rights for themselves? I think that the rational human being is in a position to uphold said rights, and therefore shoulders the responsibility. Yes I do find it somewhat hypocritical that people eat (factory farmed) meat - needless to say I don't - and protest bullfighting, but it can be argued that people need meat. Can the same be said of bullfighting? More importantly, do we have the right to inflict our whims on the animal whether it has rights or not?

As for the comparison between bullfighting and the lion attacking the wildebeest, this seems puerile. It is the nature of a predator to kill and eat prey. But humans can choose which aspects of our nature we express. Again, the bull has no say in the matter.

At any rate I find it sad (and as a psychology student, disturbing) that people consider the torture and death of a sentient being, an aesthetically pleasing spectacle.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Of Satanism, scapegoats and human rights part 2

SAPRA received a response from the Independent Electoral Commission:

You will recall that the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) and the South African Pagan Council (SAPC) lodged a formal objection with the IEC against the registration of the National Party as a political party on the grounds that the NP's policy on religion and religious education propagate the contravention of the constitutional right to freedom of belief and religion to recognized religious minorities and intend to prevent membership of the NP on the grounds of religious affiliation by excluding identified religious minorities as undesirable.

The Chief Electoral Officer has not upheld our objection against the National Party - the Commission states that the NP's submitted constitution does not contravene section 16 of the Electoral Commission Act - that the NP's submitted constitution does not discriminate on the basis of religion or belief.

Clearly, while the NP's submitted constitution may not contain any discriminatory content, the party's policies on religion as advertised on its website - - indicate that the National Party has every intention of discriminating against South Africans on the basis of religion, and the NP has already publicly identified the religious minorities the NP intend to suppress.

In correspondence to this Alliance the NP stated, "We will not allow witches to operate in South Africa under (an) NP Government. We and our supporters can not associate ourselves with anything that are (sic) linked to Satanism. We don't have a problem with your view on our policy, but we will NEVER regard Satanism or witches (sic) as a form of religion. Our major support comes from Christians and Muslims etc, we will never link this party to Satanism or witchcraft. We will make this very clear during elections 2009."

This Alliance has 30 days within which to submit an appeal to the Commission's decision.

Ask yourself this question: Should our country's democratic institutions be permitting political parties to openly and brazenly advertise their intention to undermine religious equality on the basis of partisan religious prejudice?

Again, please let me know your thoughts.

Of Satanism, scapegoats and human rights

I was amused to discover that the National Party was relaunching. I was less amused to discover that they tout banning of "Satanism or witches (sic) as a form of religion", apparently lumping Pagan Witchcraft, LaVeyan Satanism, "devil worship" as practiced by angry, dienfranchised teenagers and muti murder together as faces of the same evil, despite a very diplomatic, lucid and clear letter explaining the difference between Pagan Witchcraft and Satanism sent to the NP's Mr Juan-Duval Uys.

Anyway herewith the South African Pagan Rights Alliance's formal press release:

The National Party intends to suppress Witchcraft should it win the 2009 elections. So says Juan-Duval Uys, Member of the NP National Executive. In correspondence to this Alliance Mr. Uys stated,"We will not allow witches to operate in South Africa under (an) NP Government. We and our supporters can not associate ourselves with anything that are (sic) linked to Satanism. We don't have a problem with your view on our policy, but we will NEVER regard Satanism or witches (sic) as a form of religion. Our major support comes from Christians and Muslims etc, we will never link this party to Satanism or witchcraft. We will make this very clear during elections 2009."

The South African Pagan Rights Alliance and the South African Pagan Council (SAPC) objects to the religiously motivated intention of the National Party to suppress Witchcraft and to discriminate openly against South African citizens who self-define as Witches.

Read the formal objection by SAPRA and the SAPC against the National Party's policy on Religion and Religious Instruction in Schools HERE <>

SAPRA and the SAPC object to the registration of the National Party as a political party on the grounds that the National Party's policies on religion and religious education:

(1.) propagate the contravention of the constitutional right to freedom of belief and religion to recognized religious minorities, and

(2.) said policies intend to prevent membership of said party on the grounds of religious affiliation by excluding identified religious minorities as undesirable.

Read SAPRA and the SAPC's formal objection to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) HERE <>

Voice your own objections against the National Party's intentions to suppress Witchcraft HERE <>

Please read this and please tell them (and me) what you think of this intention to ban religious practices that the NP are clearly none to informed about.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Just a quick one:

Read a hilarious article on about the 7 most retarded ways celebrities have tried to go green. An interesting question raised was whether planting trees to offset pollution was really a viable solution. As it turns out, although it may make celebrities feel better about their wasteful habits, it doesn't help the environment all that much. To reduce our impact on the environment, we might even have to make lifestyle changes.

Don't get me wrong, planting trees is a good thing. But in addition to that some of us will have to cut back on our private jet trips, and for those of us - like me - who have rather smaller budgets to work within, switching off lights and geysers when not used, using the microwave rather than the oven, and sensible use of energy-saving lightbulbs are a good start.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Xenophobia update

I am relieved to say that refugee shelters will remain open for the time being:

Shelters to stay open, for now

"Johannesburg - The shelters for people displaced by xenophobic violence will remain open until a final ruling is received from the Constitutional Court, Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa said on Tuesday.

"It [closing the shelters] would be in contempt of the court," Shilowa said after the court concluded hearing an urgent application to keep the shelters open until a reintegration plan was produced.

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday reserved ruling on the application, while the government has agreed it will not close the shelters until the court has ruled on the matter.

Jonathan Klaaren, a lawyer associated with the application by the displaced, said: "This gives the parties time to agree on an order." "

The representatives of the refugees share my opinion on whether government had "done enough" to help these people:

Govt 'no help to refugees'

"Johannesburg - The government had done nothing to help victims of xenophobic violence be reintegrated into communities, the Constitutional Court heard on Monday.

All it had done was extend the deadline for the closure of the shelter camp to give refugees more time to make their own arrangements, the Court was told by Advocate, Nadine Fourie.

It was only after a High Court ruling last week that the government undertook to help those who approached it with specific needs, she submitted. "


If you are in South Africa, you will have read about the "Satanic" murder committed by a schoolboy on Monday.

My sympathies go out to the children and the parents involved, also to the other pupils in the school. But I have a number of problems with this highly publicised "Satanic" killing.

Firstly, how did a teenager bring a sword into school unchallenged?

Secondly, a sword murder does not come out of nowhere. Did no-one ever notice that this boy was emotionally/psychologically distressed? He apparently had an obsession with ninjas and made masks that represented, among others, child abuse. Didn't alarm bells ring for anyone??

Thirdly, "devil worship" is, in my experience, a reaction against an oppressive religious upbringing and not to be confused with LaVeyan Satanism, which, although incompatible with my ethics in a number of regards, has absolutely nothing to do with worshipping Satan, or any other deity for that matter. The Church of Satan certainly does not advocate murder.

Fourth, does "bad Satanic music" cause violence or does a teenager listen to it because he/she is unhappy already? A lot of empirical research still needs to be done on this topic but so far it would seem that "a broad array of risk factors unrelated to popular culture (e.g., depression, access to guns, substance abuse, etc.) ... seem to be precursors of such drastic acts" (Roberts, Christenson, and Gentile, 2003) and that parents are not absolved of their responsibility to be aware of their children's emotional states: "If you like your child’s friends and his/her grades are fine, then there’s probablyvery little to worry about from the lyric content of the songs he/she likes...Thus, if your child is listening to angry-sounding music for three hours each day, that may signal a reason for concern. It may be likely that your child is angry about something and is dwelling on those feelings." (Roberts et al, 2003).

Update: While composing this I found this article - the words of Morne Harmse's parents. I feel sorry for these people but especially for the boy. Being bullied as a child, being quiet and introverted by nature, low self-esteem, stress, ill-chosen coping mechanisms - I am not surprised at the end result. I am just sad and disappointed that two young lives have been destroyed by a disaster that could have been prevented.

I will rant and rave later at what I perceive to be the inadequacies of our current school system, and increasing levels of disengagement between parents and their children. I will also express the fears I have concerning the renewed wave of Satanic Panic we seem to be experiencing. For now I will just keep in my thoughts all those affected by this tragedy.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Yes, I know, they don't really stick their heads in the sand. But the South African government does on a regular basis.

The xenophobia violence of earlier this year caused the violent deaths of 62 people (among them 21 South African citizens), displacement of and suffering for many thousands of people. People who were once friends, neighbours and colleagues were suddenly targeted by angry mobs. Some of the violence occurred only a few streets from where I live, and we feared for the safety of friends.

Now the government has claimed that they have "done enough" for the victims of xenophobia and are forcing them to either go back to the communities where they were attacked, or the countries they fled.

Unfortunately, most of these people no longer have homes - many of them lived in informal settlements and their "houses" and possessions were looted and sold as scrap by their erstwhile neighbours. What I consider to be some of the underlying issues - poverty, disillusionment, and a sense of being disempowered - have by no means been addressed. So what does our government think will happen when these traumatised, now destitute, people are forced to return to hostile communities?

Blithely disregarding these questions, however, the government started dismantling camps three days before today's deadline, despite - or perhaps in response to - an application by The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa and the Wits Law Clinic to keep the camps open for two months.

There is no reintegration plan, no provision at all for their future. They are supposed to go back to places where many of their fellow foreigners had been attacked, raped and murdered. Those who don't leave the camps will be considered trespassers and dealt with as such by our merciful government.

I shall be keeping an eye on the situation, and will post more information as the situation unfolds. Please spare a thought for the people returning to possible violence and certain misery, and for a once-promising Rainbow Nation gone horribly wrong.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fashion victims part 2: Skinned alive for the catwalk

Just read this article by Merrilees Parker:

"My argument was that there should be a middle ground - various other welfare improvements which would improve a chicken's lot without making it prohibitively expensive - and it was with the same open mind that I approached my investigation into the booming fur trade.


Unlike the food industry, where growing public concern has brought about improvements in animal welfare and transparency in labelling products, the people who wear fur don't seem to give a damn about how it has been produced.

Without pressure from its customers, the fur industry will remain unregulated and, as long as that is the case, anyone buying fur could be supporting animal cruelty. Is any item of clothing really worth that?

For me, the answer is an emphatic no."

Do read the full article and comment. I tried, but my comments haven't been published. I have to say I am appalled that - in a time when I thought more humans were becoming sensitised to the idea of universal basic rights - fur is become more acceptable and even popular. Perhaps I have been too optimistic.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Freedom from Fear

I attended a protest on Friday 8-8-2008, the 20 year anniversary of the 8-8-88 protests held in Burma.

We stood outside the Myanmar Embassy (comparatively few of us unfortunately) and at some point they sent out a young lady to take pictures of us. I am not sure if we were supposed to be intimidated, or if they are going to put our faces on a Myanmar sh1t list and refuse us entry should we ever apply for visas there.

I will try to post a longer and more informative article when I have more time. However I want to share the startling realisation I had while standing there in front of the embassy. Little as democracy may mean in practical terms sometimes, the very fact that we could stand there and chant and wave posters without fear of reprisal, without the threat of arrest, torture and death, had such an impact on me that for a moment there I nearly couldn't breathe. And I realised that freedom from fear is worth fighting for.

Some links for you:

Friday, July 25, 2008


I had some brief dealings with the Church of Scientology SA some years ago, and considered them slightly dodgy but not much of a real threat. After all, I will fight for anyone's religious freedom, no matter how nutty I may think their religion is.

Then I watched the video Psychiatry: An Industry of Death - a take on psychiatry, psychology etc by the "Citizens Commission on Human Rights" (part of the CoS).

You have to see it to grasp the full impact of what they are trying to do but please keep your tinfoil hat on. I am a psychology student (not psychiatry - I am somewhat sceptical of some of the practices and ideas of modern psychiatry) so am familiar with most of the names and concepts they bandy about, and did quite well in critical reasoning, and if I didn't by nature have my bullsh1t deflectors permanently set on high, I would have been taken in.

One of the spurious accusations they make is that psychiatry "created" racism. Odd, considering (among other things) these lovely writings from L Ron Hubbard himself:

"The South African native is probably the one impossible person to train in the entire world--he is probably impossible by any human standard"...

and this

"The number of engrams [bad things m'kay] in a Zulu would be astonishing. Moved out of his restimulative area and taught English he would escape the penalty of much of his reactive data; but in his native habitat the Zulu is only outside the bars of a madhouse because there are no madhouses provided by his tribe."

*cringe* )

I found the video to be a mixture of strawman arguments, ad hominem attacks, sensationalist language, vague statements, brisk dismissal of all empirical evidence and scientific methods used in psychology or psychiatry (like fMRI), depressing footage, well, you get the idea. When closely examined their logic falls to pieces and you realise that there isn't even real conviction there; that they are painting the "other" evil to further their own goals. In fact very much like Mein Kampf which I am reading at the moment, to try to understand Hitler's rabid hatred of Jews. There wasn't any real hatred - if you can make your scapegoat look bad enough, people will rally to your cause. I figure this is what the CCHR attempts to do, linking modern psychiatry with hideous things like inhumane 18th century "asylums" and eugenics, and laying the blame for school shootings, suicide etc. squarely on the shoulders of mental health professionals.

By now I was getting worried. I thought that the fact that they are money-grubbing scaremongers, trying to prevent people from accepting help from mental health professionals was a bad thing, but hey, maybe they just got my back up because I am planning to be a mental health professional one day. You know, live and let live.

I decided to read up more on the matter and consulted the other oracle, Wikipedia (so I'm a lazy researcher). I read the following links with increasing trepidation:

Around here it really started to make my skin crawl:

I really worry about a "Church" that considers it entirely acceptable to trick, sue or lie to or destroy their critics ("enemies").

But what really got to me was they way they treated their own members, especially ones that have grown up in their organisation, or had dedicated the better part of their lives (and most of their money) to it. I'm biased, yes. Damn right I'm biased against a system which demands complete belief and complete obedience; slavery, tyranny and general human rights abuses *really* p1ss me off.

Grand claims to make? Indeed. But I don't really think there are gentler ways to describe this:

  • "Sea Org members are not permitted to have children while working for the organization. Couples who get pregnant are either pressured to abort the baby, or they must leave. Often, these people have been in the Sea Org so long, they have nowhere to go, no resume outside of Scientology, no job experience, no finances, no property, and no non-Scientology friends.

  • Anyone who leaves the Sea Org without permission is declared a Suppressive Person by the Church of Scientology, and is ostracized from family, friends, and loved ones. It is very difficult to get permission to leave the Sea Org...The "approved" leaving process involves up to 3 years of hard physical labor, E-metered confessionals, social isolation and group pressure.

  • Sea Org members live in horrible conditions...Members are often denied proper sleep and are often forced to skip meals because of the pressures of the job.

  • Sea Org members are denied proper medical care. They are not provided health insurance, are not given sick days, and the Sea Org will not purchase their medicine for them…Sickness is also treated as the fault of the sick person…

  • Because Scientology has religious status in many countries, labor laws do not apply to the Sea Org. Therefore, Sea Org members have no protection from long and abusive work hours. Many work 17-20 hours days because of the pressures of the job.

  • Spouses and family members in the Sea Org rarely see each other. The Sea Org management reserves the right to ship different family members off to work in other countries or areas without any approval from the spouse. Husbands may be sent away from their wives, mothers may be sent away from their children, etc. If the family complains, they are punished.

  • Families who have members in the Sea Org and other members who are not in the Sea Org rarely see each other. Mothers and fathers with children in the Sea Org may not call them directly, but must call the organization and ask to speak with them.

  • Letters that Sea Org members write to their families, and letters that they receive from the outside, are screened by Sea Org censors for "entheta" (unhappiness, negativity) before they are passed on. …

  • If a Sea Org member commits a punishable offense, they are sent to the RPF, or Rehabilitation Project Force, ... People on the RPF may only eat the food left over after the other SO members have eaten… are not allowed holidays, receive even less pay than SO members, and are required to do hard manual labor for long hours. People can be assigned to the RPF for up to 10 years.

  • Members are put under tremendous psychological pressure. They are expected work as hard as need be without complaint, sacrificing food, sleep, family, and off hours."

(Read the stories of the Ex Scientology Kids, and do read the "What's the deal with" sections - Fair Game, Disconnection and OTIII)

I was shocked and appalled. I refuse to buy clothes made in sweatshops, because the idea of long hours, little pay and zero legal recourse makes me sick. Yet people are probably being held in similar circumstances at the big, pretty and obviously expensive CSSA building not far from where I live. The Sea Org and the RPF transgress numerous human rights upheld in our Constitution (See dignity, life, freedom and security, forced labour, freedom of religion, freedom of association, health get the idea I think). Why are we allowing this institution in our country??

For more info:

A local Facebook group group

Anonymous on Facebook

Anonymous on the Web

Lisa McPherson, who died in the "care" of the CoS

Operation Clambake provides us with, among others, the dodgy personality test the "Church" uses (which I am planning to complete and then submit to both an independent psychologist and to the HPCSA for their perusal):

And this handy flyer which I am hoping to be handing out at the "fayres" where the CSSA are apparently recruiting people:

Finally for some gratuitously ad hominem (but somewhat pertinent) attacks on Mr L Ron Hubbard himself:


I again state that I am strongly pro religious rights. I will fight for anyone's right to freedom of religion, even for a Scientologist. Even though I think the beliefs are nonsensical, that is not what I object to. What I object to is the way the CoS deals with both its critics and its followers who, for whatever reason, become unable or unwilling to give the "Church" everything it wants. It might be ok if you could check it out and make up your own mind whether it's good or bad, but the point is they won't let you leave.

Anyway I think this covers it, am feeling quite emotionally drained from all the things I've read so I'll let you make up your own mind.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fashion victims

I was alerted to this on Facebook and sent off the following, rather snotty, mail to the parties involved:

Dear Ms Gill and Mr Robbie

I am writing to express my disgust and disappointment at the article that can be found at this link

Big spenders lose appetite for costly trinkets, 21 July 2008

and particularly the paragraph quoted:

"[Mr Robbie's] wife, Jenny, sprang a big surprise when she showed me her purchase du jour (or nuit, as it happened): a red fox-fur jacket. At R3250, she called it a “snip” in comparison with what her old man was spending on his collecting passion, and posed for the picture of the night as she modelled it for us. The slur-on-fur movement now appears to be a been-there-done-that concept and two other pre-used animal coats changed hands that night — including another pretty jacket, this time a silver fox for R3500."

Mr Robbie I am not taking issue so much with the fact that your wife bought an apparently second-hand fur jacket (of course all fur is essentially pre-used), although I do think it is irresponsible of any sort of celebrity to promote cruelty in such blatant fashion. Had the fur been new it would have been a different matter.

What shocked and disgusted me however, Ms Gill, was the callous statement you made regarding the anti-fur movement. Do you truly see concern over the unnecessary and incredibly inhumane killing of animals for their fur as a trend, to support when in vogue and to discard when the novelty has worn off? Did it never occur to you that perhaps some people feel more passionately about the suffering of animals than they do about pink satin-lined jackets? I didn't expect too much from a "society writer" but that was deplorably shallow even for someone of your ilk.

I sincerely hope that concern for the rights and welfare of others, be they human or animal, will never go out of fashion.

Feel free to send them your opinion on the matter too