Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Big Herd Syndrome

image-large_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8.png“I thought England would choose to remain in the European Union,” Servaas says as hy sips his beer. It’s been a quiet morning in Boggel’s Place; Vetfaan is tinkering with the tractor’s engine again and Gertruida must still return from Upington, where she went to get more wool. The blanket she’s crocheting is coming on nicely indeed;  it’s going to be another long, cold winter.

“Ag, I don’t know, Servaas. Whether they’re in or out doesn’t bother me. But you know the English – they’re a proud nation. Or at least…they were. There was a time they ruled the world and now they’re just a small island. Who cares?”

“Money cares, that’s what. The City of London is an economic hub, Boggel. They pull a lot of strings and expect a lot of people to jump when they do. This isn’t good news for the financial world – and we’re not going to escape the effects of this vote.”

They fall silent as the lorry from Kalahari Vervoer stops in front of Sammy’s Shop. When Gertruida gets out on the passenger side, Servaas brightens.

“She’s bummed a lift back! Vetfaan will be pleased; he was supposed to fetch her tomorrow. And…I’d love to hear what her opinion is.”

Within minutes, Gertruida has to listen to a barrage of questions.

“Okay, okay, you guys. Let me tell you a story. ”

***

Once upon a time – long ago – Zebra had a bright idea.

“Look, we are always scared of Lion and Leopard. Why, as soon as I lower my head to eat some grass, I have to look up again to check out the vicinity.  And when I want to drink water, I can only manage the tiniest mouthful before I have to do the same.

“Now you, Giraffe and Kudu, you have the same problem. So do you, Springbuck and Klipspringer. Even big, strong, Buffalo suffers the same fate.The threat, my friends, is universal – we all are in danger of being the main dish on the supper table of our enemies every day.

“Now, here’s what I suggest: let’s group together and become one big, happy herd. Some could be on the lookout while the others eat and drink in peace. We’ll share feeding, drinking and lookout duties amongst us rather than having to do it all by ourselves. Huh? What do you say?”

The other animals thought about Zebra’s suggestion and couldn’t decide.

“Well, then we’ll vote on this.That’s the only way we’d know whether it’s a good idea or not.” Little Duiker, the most agile of them all, didn’t like such long meetings. There were places to go, things to do.

The animals voted. Yes, the majority said, it’s better if they herd together.

Zebra’s plan worked well for a while. The animals shared lookout duties and they felt safe. Then, something strange happened. Due to a drought in the Baboon Territory, the baboons started looking for a better place to live. When they heard about the Big Herd, they headed that way in big numbers.

“We want what you have,” Baboon told Zebra. “It’s only fair. We are all animals, aren’t we? Go on, share your good fortune with us.”

“But you’re not an antelope, Mister Baboon. You guys don’t eat like us; you dig up the soil to get to scorpions and things that live underground. We only eat bits of grass here and there, allowing the veld to recover again. But…once you’re finished eating, the veld won’t be the same until after it rains once more.

“No, Mister Baboon, I’m sorry but we can’t allow you here.”

“Gee, how selfish!” Gentle Eland shook his head. “How can you be like that? Poor Baboon has nowhere to go; you can’t refuse to give him some shelter and food? No, I think Baboon deserves some compassion. He should stay.”

Now, by that time, the herd had become extremely large. Antelopes of all shapes and sizes grazed alongside each other and the news of Baboon’s plight soon became a topic of serious discussion. Most of the animals seemed to be in favour of allowing Baboon to stay, but Zebra put his hoof down.

“Then I’ll leave. I’ll take my chances. You guys want Baboon to stay? Why, go ahead and be my guest. I shall find my own piece of veld to graze. Goodbye and good riddance!”

The other animals thought Zebra was being stupid and welcomed Baboon with bright smiles.

“Shame, we feel sorry for you,” they told Baboon. “Come, we’ve gathered some berries for you.”

Now, it didn’t take too long for them to realise that Zebra was right. Baboon’s destructive way of feeding soon had the veld bare of grass. Worse, Baboon even started telling them that the veld was his, and they had no right to tell him where to feed. When the animals grumbled about this, Baboon threatened to fill up the watering hole with stones.

“He’ll never do that,” Kudu said. “Did we not help when he was starving? No, he’s just bluffing.”

But Baboon wasn’t bluffing. When the animals went for a drink the next day, they found a great heap of stones where the water once was.  The Big Herd was disappointed, angry and disillusioned all at once.

“It’s your fault,” Kudu told Eland.

“But…I thought Buffalo was supposed to guard the hole?”

“No, it was Klipspringer’s turn…or was it Duiker?”

The herd had become too big. While Zebra was there, he kept an orderly roster of guard duties; but when he left, nobody stepped up to do that. In the ensuing argument, Kudu butted Eland with his giant horns. Eland stomped on Klipspringer. And Duiker, the most agile of them all, simply ran off to search for Zebra.

***

“You see, the idea of a communal unity seemed like a great idea in the beginning. But the animals ignored one important aspect: they were all different. They ate different sorts of plants. Every specie had it’s own habits. And they all liked the company of their own type. Antelopes come in different sizes, shapes and colours. Zebra has stripes for camouflage, Kudu has horns to fight with and Buffalo is big and strong. Herding them together was a mistake – while they felt safer, they had to give up who and what they were.

“Then, when Baboon showed up, he not only ruined their peaceful co-existence, he also made them aware of their differences.

“A big herd, Servaas, can’t last forever. At some point they have to split up to retain their identities and ways of life. Today you’ll find small herds scattered here and there, because that is the way to deal with outside threats. A smaller herd needs less water and grass, escapes danger with greater ease and can travel farther with less problems.

“It is true for animals. It is true for the UK. It will be true for the European Union…and eventually, after the veld has been destroyed, for South Africa.”

 

 

 

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Whatever happened to Old School?

man-opening-door-for-lady-e1313090426170“That was close,” Vetfaan says as he sits down at the bar. “I was almost arrested in Prieska, man! Gimme a beer!”

Now, anybody who knows Vetfaan, knows he likes to stay on the right side of the law. Policemen and lawyers tend to make him nervous, especially when he returns from his biltong-gathering excursions. He maintains he has never poached a single Kudu – he only uses the meat from recently deceased animals. Although the cause of death might be disputed, he insists it should be listed as another case of lead poisoning.

“Been out hunting again, have you?”  Boggel’s secret admiration for Yoda surfaces from time to time. “Trouble you should have.”

“Nah, it’s not that.” The burly farmer swallows half to contents of the glass, burps with gusto and plonks down his drink. “Sexual harassment! Can you believe that? At my age!”

“Pleased, you should be.”

“Ag, Boggel, snap out of it! I only told the girl at KFC she has beautiful eyes. Next thing I know, Constable Kiewiet arrives and gives me a talking-to. He would have arrested me, but I reminded him of the last time we met.”

That story had done the rounds a few months ago. Kiewiet stopped Vetfaan’s pick-up one evening and found two recently deceased Springbok carcasses under a tarpaulin. When he got excited about his discovery, Vetfaan cleverly diverted his attention by reminding the constable of the fact that he – the policeman – would not be able to pin the demise of the poor animals on him, the innocent farmer who came across their pathetic remains. Why, he – Vetfaan – was on his way to the police station with the evidence of some individual’s (or individuals’) dastardly deed to shoot at defenceless and unarmed creatures.

The constable agreed that, indeed, Vetfaan had made a strong case for further investigation. Vetfaan suggested that they discuss the matter like gentlemen should, over a beer and maybe a bite to eat. This they did, right there, next to the road. Afterwards, Vetfaan mentioned the fact that Kiewiet had partaken in the unlawful act of consuming evidence. It was then mutually agreed that maybe – just maybe – it would be unwise to pursue the matter further. Case closed.

“Lucky, you were.”

“You know, Boggel, I don’t get it. What happened to good old chivalry? These days you dare not compliment a lady. You may not even sneak a peek at a shapely figure – it’s called invasion of privacy these days, and put on the same pedestal as abuse. Laying a comforting hand on an upset shoulder, is suddenly equal to fondling. Where is this all going to end?”

“Called gender equality, it is. Rights for humans. Laws for privacy. Not allowed to abuse, you are.”

Vetfaan shrugs. “You’re right, of course. Society seems to think that everybody is the same. If you say somebody is black, you’re a racist. If you smile at a woman, you’re a sexist. When you talk about labourers, you’re elitist. And…you are completely politically incorrect to talk about blindness, physical impairments or mental instability.

“Everybody suddenly got on the Discrimination Wagon. It’s as if society became so oversensitive about…issues…that we dare not mention them anymore. No, society wants us all to believe there are no differences in colour, gender or ability. Society wants us all the be the same; but let me remind you: equality has nothing to do with being the same. Unlike politicians want to tell us, we’re not a colourless, cultureless society believing in every religion ever invented. I’m white. Kiewiet is black. He’s a Muslim, I’m Christian. He votes for the ANC and I’d rather die than do that. We are, Boggel, and never will be, the same.”

“But respect him, you do?”

“Of course! He’s a human just like me. He has dreams and goals. He lives, loves and functions just like I do. What I’m saying, Boggel, is that the human race consists of two sexes, a multitude of cultures and a spectrum of colours. Each of us are precious. But…why make us fit into the same little box? Why can’t we stand back in wonder, celebrating diversity and acknowledging obvious differences without adding the word ‘discrimination’ to everything?”

“Everything backward, we have?”

“Yes, Boggel. There was a time when a compliment didn’t land you in trouble. When a handsome man or a beautiful woman didn’t feel threatened when somebody said something nice. When opening a door for a lady wasn’t called abuse, or when being courteous and friendly didn’t imply sexal impropriety.”

“Old school, you are.”

“Yep, Boggel. And very much out of fashion I am. Another beer you give.”