Category Archives: provocation

When children grow up in the Kingdom of Bellavista

imageIn the Kingdom of Bellavista there lived two peoples. For centuries they had lived in perfect harmony, but lately there had been troubles.

High on the hill, there lived the refined nobles, who cultivated highly sophisticated sciences and arts. With great care and kindness they managed the affairs of the realm, particularly those they fondly called their ‘children’, the peasants living below in the valley.

For many years the kingdom was happy and prosperous, but then a visitor came from a far away land. He was a travelling minstrel who liked to stir trouble. When he heard the peasants referred to as children he sung, ‘But don’t you find that a bitter pill? Are you not adults just the same those on the hill?’ The minstrel sowed dissent in the peaceful kingdom. Soon other minstrels emerged from within the kingdom with songs like ‘No kidding’, ‘Not younger anymore’.

They started to ask questions: What shall we call ourselves that has more dignity than ‘children’? Eventually they determined that they simply wanted to be known as the ‘people of the valley’. They sent a deputation up the hill and demanded recognition of their new status.

To their surprise, they found that the nobles above were most understanding of their concerns and even begged forgiveness for their insensitivity. But more than that, they even proposed to establish a Centre for the Study of Valley People.

The peasants returned home vindicated. They felt proud that they were no longer children to be looked down on, but ‘people of the valley’ with their own distinct experiences and values.

But in the valley, there was particular group of people who were confused by the new arrangement. Down in the valley lived a small community of nobles, descended from those on the hill, whose function was to manage customs on the river port. They were accustomed to their privileged status as ‘adults’ living down among the ‘children’. But now they witnessed what were previously known as ‘children’ proudly identifying themselves as ‘people of the valley’. And these mere children seemed to win the approval of those from above.

So the river nobles decided they needed to change their story. They began to describe themselves as ‘people of the valley’ too. But not everyone was convinced of this, particularly from outside. Their peasant neighbours still saw them as patronising hill people, not genuine valley people like themselves. And their noble ancestors above viewed them as remnants of a older less enlightened time.

Looked down above, excluded from below, the valley nobles felt lost and abandoned. They held a meeting to discuss their plight. Amid the despair and confusion, a voice rose above the crowd. It was Tandurrum, an elder of the native river people wrapped in a traditional fur cloak. She generously offered to assist the river nobles: ‘As an original inhabitant of the valley, let me help you to change your ways so that you will feel more at home in the valley. Let me help you change from ladies and gentlemen to sisters and brothers…’ As she continued to explain how the river nobles could become people of the valley, their mood lifted and they could see a way forward.

So, would the river nobles take the advice of the original inhabitants, forsaking their historic privileges? Or would they continue to uphold the ideals of the hill, and become the overlooked in the Kingdom of Bellavista?

To be continued…

The South has no idea, really

It can be useful to consider the doubts that beset the South. In a way, it’s repeating conventional wisdom to claim that the North is more significant than the South, but it’s important to acknowledge it at some point in this journey. At least we know what we are up against. Treat it as a crude provocation. Rebuttals are most welcome.

Let’s face it, North is where the action is.

  • There are four times as many people living in the northern as in the southern hemisphere.
  • The South is mostly water. Two thirds of the continents are in the North.
  • The earth is magnetised so that all our compasses point north.
  • Since the breakup of Gondwana, even southern continents have been moving steadily northwards. Africa will eventually be joined to Europe.
  • The South is mostly islands. Isolation leads to inferior evolution — look at the flightless birds.
  • Colonisation was an unfortunate but inevitable confrontation between the superior interconnected empires of the North and the fragmented independent kingdoms of the South.

The superiority of the North is partly due to its curiosity for the unknown. An idea of South emerges not from anything within the South, but from the missionary impulse of the North itself. The South sees itself through the lens of northern primitivism.

The South may chose to turn its back on the North, but this will only isolate it further from the source of new ideas and resources. Nations like South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Chile were formed by empires from the North and so are destined to judge themselves according to Northern values. They may achieve significant feats in their own hemisphere, but they will never contribute anything original to the source of their nationhood in the North.