Offbeat 30 January 2015
This column, number 501, is slightly on the far side of halfway there. I have the intent to write 1,001 of these things, rather like 1,001 Arabian nights. My physical life doesn’t depend on it, the way the woman from the Arabian Nights stories used her tales to keep the Sultan from killing her, but my mind and self-respect depend on this writing. There are two reasons why I write these things.
Firstly, I need to be able to think my own thoughts. I set out on each of these columns with the germ of an idea but without much clue about where the column will end. Each of these things is a journey for me, an exploration of my mind.
Secondly, they are for my daughter. I hope to give them to her as proof that she can have her own thoughts, in spite of all the obstacles that will be thrown in her path.
The underpinning to this whole thing is that none of the thoughts that I write down here are perfect. That is the most important factor.
The world is full of little old ladies in jackboots, and dour, gray men carrying booklets with template ideologies and designs for living. These people require obedience, the moment you enter their ambits. Obedience, adherence to the orthodoxy, validates them. The thoughts that I write down here reject their orthodoxy and establish my ability to think independently.
Although they all say that they are ‘the right way’, the template designs for living are wards against fear of the unknown, signs of inability to cope without obedience. By demanding and enforcing their obedience, the sloganeers and propagandists strengthen their own positions.
Perhaps you remember that old chestnut from the Eighties; ‘Eendrag maak mag’. It was a poisonous thought, guaranteed to reduce individuality. It also opened the door for revolting abuses. It illustrates the point that it is critical to explore your own capacity for thought.
None of these columns are perfect. That’s important as well. Almost all of them are completely woolly headed and many of them end up with no resolution, just more questions. The point, I tell myself regularly, is that thought should not be limited to academe. It should be free for everyone.
I think of thought as a form of recreation. Consider it as a form of athletics for example. Many people enjoy a run around the block. Not everyone has to be an Olympic competitor. If perfection is the object, then a lot of people will be excluded from the fun.
Yet in spite of what I have said, I sense that the numbers of people who enjoy playing with their heads is diminishing.
The new orthodoxy is a creeping rot. Social media, which I have talked about quite a lot, has changed the world beyond all recognition since I started writing these columns. People have access to thoughts and the ability to express themselves on social media, however everybody seems to end up at the same places. Quotations and Biblical verses litter the world of social media, but seem to have the same purpose as cut flowers: they decorate the individual, but wither, are discarded and are forgotten.
As proof of this, consider the fact that the world is becoming more violent and more intolerant in spite of all the motivational quotes and religion.
Individual thought might counter this; working things out and individuals applying their own ideas to their lives. Sharing a quote or Bible verse to Facebook is far easier though: why develop your own beliefs when you can just think the same way everyone else does?
I am not comfy with the template orthodoxy, and I am not entirely comfortable with the possibility that my daughter will have to live with the restrictions that it imposes. All I can do is show her that it is possible and accept that she will make her own choices.
These thoughts are my rebellion, and give me the balance I need. I have another 500 moments of freedom to go, before I will be satisfied that I have done enough. I know that some of you are regular readers, and I appreciate your interest. Thanks.