Recently the profile pictures of a lot of people on Facebook appeared overlaid with rainbow-type stripes.
This was made possible by the people at Facebook, who offered it on a page called Let’s celebrate pride. “From all of us at Facebook, Happy Pride!”.
There didn’t seem to be a corresponding one for celebrating humility.
Anyway, it made me think of how Bishop Desmond Tutu’s description of South Africa as “the Rainbow Nation” went viral in the days when we were celebrating “many cultures, one nation”. So I added it to my profile picture on Facebook too.
It soon became apparent that South Africa, as always, was out of step with the rest of the world. When the rest of the world was denouncing apartheid as an unmitigated evil, the South African government stuck rigidly to it.
But when we finally abandoned apartheid and too up the “many cultures, one nation” idea, people in the rest of the world started denouncing multiculturalism as the worst thing since sliced bread (oh, wait, wrong metaphor, but still you see what I mean).
South Africa was uniting all the bogus “homelands” into one nation, while other countries, like Yugoslavia, were determinedly trying to drive people into their own “homelands”, and in the process gave us the term that so perfectly described effects of the former South African policy of apartheid, namely, “ethnic cleansing”.
But I digress.
The other thought sparked off by the Facebook “Let’s celebrate pride” thing was the Proudly South African campaign. So if Facebook isn’t going to offer humility, let’s make the most of pride.
That probably isn’t the kind of “pride” that Facebook had in mind, but since they didn’t specify it, I suppose everyone is free to interpret it in their own way, though it does raise the question of who owns signs and symbols, and who gets to interpret what they mean.
So what does the rainbow symbolise?
The rainbow nation? Pride?
Back in 1971 a friend and I ran a kind of alternative news agency in Namibia, which we called Rainbow Press Services. We sent stories to South African newspapers, which didn’t have offices in Namibia, but as South Africa ruled Namibia at the time, they occasionally wanted to report things. We worked intitially for the Argus Africa News Service, and later for the South African Morning Group of Newspapaers. When I was sacked by the Windhoek Advertiser it became my sole source of income. When, a few months later, we were deported from Namibia, Rainbow Press Services came to an end.
But the name Rainbow Press Services arose by accident.
In 1969, at the instigation of Beyers Naude, I started some youth groups for the Christian Institute in Durban. I sent out a newsletter informing the members of the various groups of activities. The newsletters were produced by a stencil duplicator (remember those?), and I printed them on yellow paper because I had read somewhere that black printing on yellow paper was easiest to read. A journalist friend, Dick Usher, nicknamed it the Yellow Press, and took over producing it when I went to Namibia. There we produced a similar newsletter, the Pink Press, printed on pink paper to distingish it from the Yellow Press in Durban.
Of course we were aware of the symbolism of rainbows. In the words of one song,
God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, but the fire next time.
And The fire next time was also the title of a book on race relations in the USA, presumably derived from the same song.
Paul and Silas bound in jail
Had no money for to go their bail.
The very moment I thought I was lost
The duncgeon shook and the chains fell off.
The only thing that we did wrong
was staying in the wilderness too long
The only thing that we did right
Was the day we began to fight.
God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water but the fire next time.
But there were other books that promulgated the idea that the rainbow sign was extremely dangerous. One such was The hidden dangers of the rainbow, by Constance Cumbey. Real conspiracy theory stuff, that.
So as a symbol, the rainbow seems to mean anything that anyone wants it to mean, good or bad.
My own take on it is somewhat different.
God gave Noah the rainbow sign, but didn’t say anything about “the fire next time”.
For a brief period of 20 years, from 1969 to 1989, the Anglican Church in Southern Africa had an experimental lectionary in which each Sunday had a particular theme, and the Bible readings were chosen to reflect that theme. The cycle began on the 9th Sunday before Christmas, and from then until Christmas the Old Testament reading was the “contolling lesson”, on which the theme was based.
The first three themes were Creation, Fall and, on the 7th Sunday before Christmas, The Covenant of Preservation: Noah.
This scheme brought out the Christian significance of the rainbow sign.
Perhaps I was influenced in thinking this because, as a child of the 1960s, I was familiar with the Beatles’ song We all live in a yellow submarine.
It was also fashionable in the 1960s to speak of “Spaceship Earth” — here we are hurtling through a hostile environment, space, on a planet with limited resources, and we’d better look after it, or we’re doomed.
The Bible, at least in the story of Noah, prefers the image of the submarine.
There are waters above the firmament, and waters below the firmament (the firmament, of course, being the hull of the submarine). It is still a hostile environment, though it is pictured as water rather than empty space.
And the people in the submarine are fighting, so that the whole earth was filled with violence (Genesis 6:13). And when you fight in a submarine, you are likely to make holes in the hull, and let the water in, which is what happened. And God told Noah (the only one who would listen) how to build an escape capsule, which, according to the story, he did.
Those three Sundays emphasised s sequence: creation, fall, preservation. God made the world and saw that it was good. Evil enters the world through human beings, and it is human addiction to violence that threatens to destroy it and all life in it. But the Covenant of Preservation is just that: evil may seem overwhelming, but it will never completely overwhelm the goodness of God’s creation. Evil may be powerful, but there are limits to its power, and God’s promise, God’s covenant of preservation, is that evil will never completely overcome the good. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not, and will not, overcome it.
And that’s why, also back in the 1960s, we used to sing We shall overcome.
Today we buried Christina Mothapo, at 89 the oldest member of our Mamelodi mission congregation. She had been, like most of the other members, a member of the African Orthodox Episcopal Church, whose leader, then Archbishop Simon Thamaga asked in 1997 to join the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Christina was not only the oldest, but also one of the most faithful members.
We first used to meet in a school classroom, and Christina walked up there for services on Sunday mornings. When the school raised the rent for the classroom beyond what the congregation could affor (from R30.00 a month to R200.00) we met in Christina’s house. That made it easier for her, because she was beginning to find the walk difficult. But it had some drawbacks — in a church building, the church is visible when it meets. In a classroom, it is less visible, and in a house, it’s almost invisible.
For the last couple of months, Christina had been ill in bed, and we had the service in the next room, where she could hear it, but not see it.
One of the things Christina was very insistent on was that she wanted an Orthodox funeral, and was worried that after her death people would do strange things. One problem is that many people belong to burial societies, and one of the things they do is print funeral programmes, but those who draw up the programmes have no idea what Orthodox funerals are like. But we somehow managed to marry the two.
There are three cemeteries in Mamelodi, and while I had been to two of them before, it was the first time I had been to this one, rather unfortunately placed next to a municipal rubbish dump. I was struck by the number of recent graves. A few, like Christiana, had lived long lives, but so many have died relatively young, in their 30s and 40s.
With the saints give rest, O Christ
To the soul of Thy servant
Where sickness and sorrow are no more
Neither sighing, but life everlasting.
Thou only art immortal
Who hast created and fashioned man
For out of the earth were we mortals made
And unto the same earth shall we return again
As Thou didst command when Thou madest me, saying unto me:
For dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return
Whither we mortals all shall go
Making our funeral dirge the song:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Memory eternal! Memory eternal!
May her memory be eternal!
Segopotšo ka go sa felego!
A gopolwe ka go sa felego!
In the last week or so the news media have been dominated by the story of the Greek anti-austerity referendum.
At first it seemed that the “mainstream” media were saying one thing, and “social” media another.
Before the referendum I would see things liike “Don’t blink, Greece” on Facebook, while the “mainstream” media (including the Greek media) were presenting it as Greeks voting for or against the Euro, or the Eurozone, or the EU.
But that doesn’t seem to be the way most Greeks saw it. It seems that most of those who voted “No” were voting against austerity without end, and ever-increasing debt. They were being asked to vote on whether they should jump into a bottomless pit. Should anyone be surprised that a majority voted “No” to that?
Well, according to this article, no one was more surprised than the present Greek government, which called the referendum in the first place. Europe is blowing itself apart over Greece – and nobody seems able to stop it – Telegraph:
Greek premier Alexis Tsipras never expected to win Sunday’s referendum on EMU bail-out terms, let alone to preside over a blazing national revolt against foreign control.
He called the snap vote with the expectation – and intention – of losing it. The plan was to put up a good fight, accept honourable defeat, and hand over the keys of the Maximos Mansion, leaving it to others to implement the June 25 “ultimatum” and suffer the opprobrium.
That one reads a bit like a conspiracy theory.
But since the referendum the media consensus seems to have fallen apart, and we have seen a lot of wildly contradictory stories about what happened, what is happening, and what will happen in future.
It didn’t take long for the “Putin is the bad guy” meme to surface in the Western media: Is Putin Playing Puppetmaster in Greece? – The Daily Beast:
The weekend’s stunning repudiation of further European bailouts by a strong majority of Greeks shocked Brussels and beyond. That 61 percent of Greek voters want nothing to do with European Union “fixes” to their country’s grave fiscal crisis, which has preoccupied the EU for five years, represents a shocking development to Eurocrats.
What happens next is on everyone’s mind. Unless Athens comes up with a revised—and more plausible—finance plan very soon, expulsion from the Eurozone appears imminent. While that could cause financial instability for Europe, and may bring bad tidings far beyond, there’s one country that seems to be savoring this crisis.
That’s Russia. To the surprise of no one who pays attention to Vladimir Putin’s persistent efforts to undermine the EU and NATO, Moscow is poised to reap political benefits from Greece’s financial collapse.
Both that and the Daily Telegraph‘s story seem to be in the classic conspiracy theorist mode. They are different conspiracies, that’s all. The first suggests a conspiracy between the Greek government and the Eurocrats, the second a conspiracy between the Greek government and Putin.
I think this one comes closer to the truth in economic terms, though it could also be seen as a conspiracy theory, positing a conspiracy between the the governments of countries like Germany and France and the banks: Mark Blyth | Why Greece Isn’t to Blame for the Crisis:
the Greek deficit was a rounding error, not a reason to panic. Unless, of course, the folks holding Greek debts, those big banks in the eurozone core, had, over the prior decade, grown to twice the size (in terms of assets) of—and with operational leverage ratios (assets divided by liabilities) twice as high as—their “too big to fail” American counterparts, which they had done. In such an over-levered world, if Greece defaulted, those banks would need to sell other similar sovereign assets to cover the losses. But all those sell contracts hitting the market at once would trigger a bank run throughout the bond markets of the eurozone that could wipe out core European banks.
I’m no economist, but that article seems to jibe with what professional economists I know have been saying, and I see no reason to disbelieve them. And it seems that other economists have been saying similar things:
… the financial demands made by Europe have crushed the Greek economy, led to mass unemployment, a collapse of the banking system, made the external debt crisis far worse, with the debt problem escalating to an unpayable 175 percent of GDP. The economy now lies broken with tax receipts nose-diving, output and employment depressed, and businesses starved of capital.
But they persist, like medieval quack physicians, in believing that if bleeding the patient does not result in improvement, bleed them some more.
And then there is this article, which points to an important and often-overlooked truth behind all this: Greece just taught cap[italists a lesson about what capitalism really means – Business Insider:
Debt is not a guarantee of future payments in full. Rather, it is a risk that creditors take, in hopes of maybe being paid tomorrow.
The key word there is “risk.”
If you’re willing to take the risk, you’ll get a premium — in the form of interest.
But the downside of that risk is that you lose your money. And Greece just called Germany’s bluff.
The IMF loaned Greece 1.5 billion euros, due back in June, and Greece isn’t paying it back. Greece has another 3.5 billion due to the ECB in July, and that looks really doubtful right now.
This is how capitalism works. The fact that it took a democratically elected government whose own offices are adorned with posters of Lenin, Engels, and Guevara to teach this lesson to Germany is astonishing.
Over the last few decades we have seen a growth in the popularity of the ideology of neoliberalism, with its proponents saying that socialism is outdated and discredited. They stress the importance of “free markets”, and proclaim the merits of privatisation.
But here, as elsewhere, we see the essential flaw in this. What the exponents of privatisation want is privatisatiion of the rewards, but not privatisation of the risks. Thus they can be reckless with other people’s money and pay themselves enormou7s bonuses, but when things go belly-up, they can always apply to the public purse for bail outs.
The Daily Beast describes Greece’s “No” to endless austerity is “stunning” and “shocking”. and many of the other Western news media said similar things. Some speculated about whether the Greeks were too stupid to know the consequences of what they were voting for, and some implied that they were stupid because they voted “no”.
But if the Greeks were stupid, they nevertheless remembered more of Grade 3 arithmetic than the Western media who criticised them.
If you have a tank that is being filled at ten litres a minute, and at the bottom the tap is open and draining 17,5 litres a minute, the tank is soon going to be empty.
That is what the Eurozone troika wanted the Greeks to vote “Yes” to, while themselves standing on the hose filling the tank to reduce the inflow still further.
The Greeks aren’t that stupid, but the Western media who expected and urged them to vote “Yes” apparently are.
Back at the end of the last century the United Nations set several “Millennium Goals” to be achived by 2015, among which was the go0al of reducing povery. But in 2015 the Eurozone troike was not satisfied that, as a consequence of their austerity policies, 60% of Greek pensioners were living in poverty. They wanted it to be increased to 70%, or even 80%.
Would anyone in their right mind actually vote for that?
Yet the Western media and a lot of Western politicians seemed to expect them to.
The consequences of this imbroglio will not be confined to Greece, or even to Europe. They are likely to affect all of us. And nether the politicians nor the media pandits seem to be able to see any way out of it, and all offer widely differeing solutions.
Here are a few more interesting articles on the topic:
- interfluidity: Greece
- Five Reasons Why The Greeks Were Right – Forbes
- In Case You Missed It: The Memory Hole Devouring Greece
- What was good for Germany in 1953 is good for Greece in 2015 | Business | The Guardian
And, concerning the last, it might be well to remember this:
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him (Matt 18:23-34).
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A couple of months ago I read Youth by J.M. Coetzee about an aspiring South African writer who goes to London. I felt that there was something missing in the book (my review here). I couldn’t quite put a finger on the missing bit, so I thought I would read Tropic of Cancer, which is the story of an aspiring American writer living in Paris.
Since both are semi-autobiographical novels they invite comparison, though perhaps it isn’t doing justice to Miller to compare him with another writer, but it’s the theme that interests me, rather than the individual novels. They were written 30 years apart — Paris in the 1930s, London in the 1960s, and that in itself makes quite a big difference. It is hard to think that the 1960s are further away from us now than the 1930s were then. Perhaps it is because I was alive in the 1960s and thought that the 1930s were impossibly remote. Perhaps it is because WWII intervened, and we are living in a different world.
But with Henry Miller it doesn’t matter much that we are living in a different world, because his books in a sense are timeless. In reading Tropic of Cancer the main thing that seemed different and out of place was that males wore hats, and felt uncomfortable if they went out hatless.
The first book of Miller’s that I read was The Colossus of Maroussi, and it is still the one I like the best. One of the things I liked most about it was his descriptions of places, and there are some good descriptive passages in Tropic of Cancer too.
When it was first published Tropic of Cancer and its companion volume Tropic of Capricorn were banned in most English-speaking countries. Even when they were unbanned in the 1960s they were regarded by many as “dirty” books, because of the explicit sexual descriptions. In the 1980s, of course, no novel was complete without such things — what was forbidden in the 1930s became compulsory 50 years later, so Miller’s book no longer shocks.
People might find it distasteful for other reasons, though; it is sexist, and there is an undertone of racism as well. Some have said that the book is misogynist, but it is not so much mysoginist as sexist. Miller doesn’t hate women, he just doesn’t have much use for them, or rather he just has one use for them — as sexual objects, and that is how he describes them all the way through the book. They are not people, they are genitals with mouths and legs attached.
But most of his descriptions of males were also pretty dehumanising. Perhaps that’s why I like Miller best for his descriptions of places, rather than of people.
Here is an interesting essay on C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, and their possible influence on each other. I agree with the author that Aslan in Lewis’s Narnia stories probably owes little to the lion in Charles Williams’s The Place of the Lion. Unlike the author of the essay linked below, I read The Place of the Lion before I read any of the Narnia stories, and my mother, who read it before me, said it reminded her of the nursery rhymne.
The lion and the unicorn were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn all around the town.
Some gave them white bread, and some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake and drummed them out of town.
It helps to see the nusery rhyme in its historical context, which is political. In a sense the beastly archetypes that get loose in Williams’s novel represent abstract powers in this world. For Williams the Lion represents strength, yet in another novel he wrote about the Tarot, and there the strength is not represented so much by the Lion, as by the human being controlling the Lion. And The Place of the Lion ends with Adam reasserting control over the beasts, and the powers they represent.
In the last few decades we have seen people enacting Williams’s novel in everyday life, wanting to release economic powers, for example, from human control, as advocated by the free market ideology.
That all goes beyond this essay, but I think the essay is a very good introduction to these books for those who haven’t read them, and food for thought for those who have
Originally posted on A Pilgrim in Narnia:
A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of being a guest blogger for The Oddest Inkling in a series on Charles Williams’ The Place of the Lion. This was the first Williams book that C.S. Lewis had ever encountered, and it was transformational for him. My question in this blog is what role it played in Lewis’ own fiction writing.
The Place of the Lion in C.S. Lewis’ Fiction
I came to Charles Williams’ The Place of the Lion because of my work in C.S. Lewis. I know that Williams had a great influence upon Lewis, and I am determined to find out how deep that influence really is. Moreover, Lewis discovers the Lion at a key point in his life: his academic career is building with the release of The Allegory of Love (1936) and his continual work on The Personal Heresy (1939) . It is at…
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The evening of the Saturday after Pentecost is the Orthodox Hallowe’en, following immediately upon the Leavetaking of Pentecost.
The Sunday following Pentecost is dedicated to All Saints, both those who are known to us, and those who are known only to God. There have been saints at all times, and they have come from every corner of the earth. They were Apostles, Martyrs, Prophets, Hierarchs, Monastics, and Righteous, yet all were perfected by the same Holy Spirit.
The Descent of the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to rise above our fallen state and to attain sainthood, thereby fulfilling God’s directive to “be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44, 1 Peter 1:16, etc.). Therefore, it is fitting to commemorate All Saints on the first Sunday after Pentecost.
In the Western Church All Saints Day is always on the same calendar date, November 1st, so Hallowe’en is always the evening before, and it is followed by All Souls Day on November 2nd. In the Orthodox Church the calendar date varies, because Hallowe’en is always on the Saturday after Pentecost. And All Souls Day is always a week before, on the Saturday before Pentecost. Actually the Orthodox Church has more than one All Souls Day — there are several of them, spread through the year.
There are saints commemorated by name on every day throughout the year, but All Saints Day we remember all those, known and unknown, who have lived lives pleasing to God.
Troparion — Tone 4
As with fine porphyry and royal purple,
Your church has been adorned with Your martyrs’ blood shed throughout all the world.
She cries to You, O Christ God:
Send down Your bounties on Your people,
Grant peace to Your habitation, and great mercy to our souls!
Kontakion — Tone 8
The universe offers You the God-bearing martyrs,
As the first fruits of creation, O Lord and Creator.
Through the Theotokos, and their prayers establish Your Church in peace!
More hymns from the Orthodox Hallowe’en Vespers
Tone 6 (from the Pentecostarion) (Having placed all their hope)
The Saviour’s inspired Disciples
became instruments of the Spirit through faith.
They were scattered to the ends of the earth,
sowing the glad tidings of the true faith.
From their divine garden the army of martyrs blossomed in grace.
They became images of Christ’s saving Passion,
enduring every kind of torture, scourging, and fire.//
Now they boldly pray for our souls.
v. (3) For with the Lord there is mercy and with Him is plenteous redemption, and He will deliver Israel from all his iniquities.
The noble martyrs, burning with love of the Lord,
laughed at the fires and were consumed as burning coals.
Through Christ, they burned the withered arrogance of error.
They stilled the roaring of beasts with the voice of their prayers.
Beheaded, they decapitated the demonic hosts.
By the shedding of their own blood they watered the Church with faith.
v. (2) Praise the Lord, all nations! Praise Him, all peoples!
The heroic martyrs wrestled with beasts and were torn by their claws.
They were dismembered, slashed with swords, and shot with arrows;
they were consumed in the flames and pierced with lances.
All this they willingly endured,
for already they saw their unfading crowns, and the glory of Christ,
before Whom they boldly pray for our souls.
v. (1) For His mercy is abundant towards us; and the truth of the Lord endures for ever.
Come, let us praise the heroes of our faith:
Apostles, martyrs, holy priests, and noble women!
They fought for the faith in every part of the earth.
Though born of earth, they were united with the heavenly hosts.
Through their sufferings, they triumphed over evil by the grace of Christ.
As unfading lights, they illumine our hearts,
and with boldness they pray for our souls.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
O divine choir of martyrs,
ye are the pillars of the Church and the fulfillment of the Gospel.
By your deeds ye have fulfilled the Savior’s words.
Ye have closed the gates of hell and defended the Church.
The shedding of your blood has dried up the libations poured out to idols.
Your sacrifice has nourished the body of the faithful.
Standing crowned before God, ye amazed the Angels.
Pray unceasingly to Him that our souls may be saved!
Now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.