Monthly Archives: March 2017

Rasputin Syndrome in South Africa?

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Grigory Rasputin

“Now, Rasputin – as you may know – was a rather enigmatic figure about whom there is still a lot of uncertainty. He was never a monk and had no religious training, but he became known as a mystic, a prophet, a spiritual healer and received (according to him) the gift of clairvoyance.” Gertruida is in full cry – it’s been a long night but the group in the little bar just can’t settle down. The cabinet reshuffle has caused a lot of debate, with the consensus that the country is in for a stormy future. As usual, Gertruida wants the last word. “But…he had an eye for a shapely figure, especially if the lady was well-connected or rich.”

“Gee Gertruida, do we really have to listen to a history lesson? Pravin Gordhan just got axed – as did that nice man, Jonas – and we’ve been trying to make sense of it all. And still you insist on telling us about some crazy Russian?” Servaas shakes his head – what is the world coming to?

“Listen, that man, Gigaba? I’m not so sure. He really sent tourism into a tailspin with all the new regulations. If he doesn’t understand the economy of tourism, how can he handle the whole country’s finances?”

“Wrong idea, Vetfaan.” Servaas wags a finger at his bleary-eyed friend. “You have to think big. He has to do much more than just balance the country’s books – he has to handle our president’s affairs.” He waits for a moment to allow the sentence to sink in before adding: “Which includes much more than mere money, I might add.”

“Rasputin never had any formal education and was illiterate until well into his adulthood. Despite this, Rasputin met the Tzar in 1905, bedazzled the ladies of the court and caused the Tzar to fall under his spell. Man, he really got under people’s skin, but the Tzar protected him at all costs.” Gertruida manages to ignore the other two. “But, ironically, it was his interpretation of sin that led to his fall from grace. You see, he believed that repentance was necessary for salvation. But…how can you repent if you have no sin? So his theory was simple: to prove he was not suffering from the sin of vanity, he…er…forced himself to be a fragile human creature and took to sex and booze to create the sins he had to plead forgiveness for.” She smiles at the incredulous looks she gets. “Yep. And you know what? Some of the most powerful people in Russia actually fell for that ruse.”

Vetfaan pokes a finger in the air. “I think I get what you’re getting at.”

“Good. And it was this spiral of increasing drunkenness and sexual exploits that caused his downfall, together with his complete inability to refuse bribes.”

“But they got rid of him in the end, didn’t they?”

“They did, Servaas, but it wasn’t easy. On November 19, 1916, Purishkevich – an important chap in government – made a rousing speech in which he stated: “The … ministers … have been turned into marionettes, marionettes whose threads have been taken firmly in hand by Rasputin.”  It was the speech that started the plot to murder Rasputin.”

“Probably the only thing to do under the circumstances and at that time in history in Russia.”

“Yes, Vetfaan. Of course. Things were so much simpler then.These days even presidents have rights. But, to get back to Rasputin: first a lady attacked him and stabbed him in the stomach, causing severe injuries.”

“So he died?”

“No Servaas, he didn’t. A surgeon operated on him – in his home – and he recovered. Then a group of conspirators invited him to supper. They gave him some cake, laced with enough cyanide to kill five men. Rasputin didn’t bat an eye. So they shot him, and he fell down. Still he didn’t die. They shot him again, several times. Still Rasputin lived. So they rolled him in a rug and threw him in a river, where he drowned. At last Russia was free of Rasputin, but not of his legacy. He was the reason Russia doesn’t have a Tzar any more.”

A heavy silence hangs in Boggel’s Place when Gertruida finishes her tale.

“One man, delusional and somewhat charasmatic, with a love for women and money. And he, singlehandedly, caused the collapse of an empire?”

“True, Vetfaan. History is a strange animal, you know. It keeps on repeating itself.”

 

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Photo Challenge: The Road Taken..

...less travelled, please! Remote. Isolated. Away… And oh! What beauty and serenity awaits once the sham of civilisation is left behind.015.jpgOnce the call of The Great Silence manages to entice you away from your desk, your computer and your mortgage bills, there is a road that’ll take you to Tranquility. But you must first escape.

057.jpgAt times, one may be excused for feeling a bit lost – after all, entering unknown regions may prove daunting…but keep on following the tracks. IMG_4655.JPGDon’t hesitate. Not even when it seems as if the road leads to Nowhere. Keep the faith.IMG_4857.JPGGear down. Deflate the tyres if you have to. But keep going.IMG_0344a.jpg.And then, suddenly, a new world unfolds. It’s simple. Unpretentious. You set up camp in a completely new mindset. And, for the first time, you notice the green world you’ve been ignoring for far too long…

Following Ariadne’s Thread

ariadnetheseus krauss8,3.jpg“People still argue about her, you know? Was she a goddess? Was she immortal? Or was she, like you and me, simply human? Or…most disappointing of all – is she only a myth, after all?” Gertruida simply loves doing this when the group in the bar has grown tired of discussing the drought and the latest blunders by our bungling party in power. She’ll throw out a sentence like that and pretend everybody knows exactly what she is talking about. Then she’ll get out her book of crossword puzzles and ignore the rest.

Servaas sighs dramatically and rolls his eyes before digging an elbow into Vetfaan’s ribs. “Your turn,” he whispers.

The problem with small towns – if Rolbos can even be elevated to such high status, more often being called a hovel or sometimes a ‘small collection of scattered buildings’ – is that the set routine about how things are done, is seldom subjected to logical scrutiny. Their behaviour is governed by the way things were done in the past, and that’s the way it’d be done next week…or next year, for that matter. Servaas had taken the bait the last time Gertruida egged them on, so now it is Vetfaan’s turn.

“Ag, okay then, Gertruida, we give up. Who you talking about? Our previous Public Protector? She certainly  fits the bill… ”

“She’s much older than dear Thuli, Vetfaan. Much older and  … much too young.. Like Thuli, she had a analytical, logical brain which she used to solve the most difficult problems with. And, sadly, like Thuli, there are many voices condemning her today as an unfaithful and two-faced character. The only difference, maybe, is that our heroine belongs to Greek mythology, while Thuli is very much alive and well and living in our midst.”

“Oh, for the sake of Vrede,” Servaas gestures to the town’s dog, patiently waiting for a bit of biltong on Boggel’s pillow beneath the counter, “stop the nonsense. Who – or what – are you going on about?”

“Why, Ariadne, of course.” Gertruida rolls her eyes in mock horror. “Didn’t you know? I thought everybody knew about the stunningly beautiful girl who helped Theseus to slay the Minotaur in the labyrinth.”She stares at the blank faces for a few seconds before sighing heavily. “Oh my. Surrounded by the crowd of super-gifted intelligentia once more.

“To slay the Minotaur, Theseus had to find his way through the labyrinth to get to the creature/man. And once he’d managed to kill the beast, he had to find his way back again – a seemingly impossible task. Enter Ariadne with a ball of twine, which she handed to Theseus. Then, much like Hansel and Gretel did with their breadcrumbs, Theseus knew exactly what route to take to get to the exit of the labyrinth again.

dePasse16002gs.jpg“So, today, if you talk about Ariadne’s Thread, you talk about the ‘solving of a problem with multiple apparent means of proceeding – such as a physical maze, a logic puzzle, or an ethical dilemma – through an exhaustive application of logic to all available’. Simply put, it says that you must consider all the ways to solve a problem and that logic will dictate the best route.

“So, Ariadne’s thread helped Theseus to accomplish the apparently impossible, just like we have to in the current political climate.” Gertruida drew two sketches on the countertop to illustrate her story:

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“A grand story if ever there was one.” Servaas suppressed a bored yawn. “But your analogy to our politics doesn’t make sense.”

“Oh, it does, my friend. You see, the majority of people approach our current situation on an emotional basis. They argue that the ruling party deserves credit – and loyalty – because of the struggle to free the country of Apartheid. That’s why our prez cannot say two words without harping back to the past.

“But, of course, the ANC of Sobukwe and Biko and Mandela has passed on a long time ago. The high ideals of the struggle have been replaced by individual greed and chronic megalomanioses. To keep the masses voting for them, the ruling party has to remind them of the past – all the time. And then, of course there are the 2,3 to 5 million (depending on which source you believe) taxpayers who have to support 17 million recipients of social grants. Logic whispers, Servaas, but money shouts.

“There’s no logic to our electoral system, see? There is a huge difference between democracy and being held at ransom by the masses who cast an emotional (as opposed to a logical) vote.”

“Old news, Gertruida. We know that.”

“True. Everybody does. But we need somebody like Ariadne to give us the thread so we can slay the Minotaur and still get out of the Labyrinth alive. We need respected people to stand up and tell it like it is. We don’t need emotional votes, neither do we need emotional criticism. We need logic to be resurrected in our society, with people choosing their words and actions wisely and … logically. Ariadne’s way, in fact.”

Vetfaan slices off a piece of Kudu biltong and slips it to Vrede.

“I’ll drink to that. May our Ariadne  have enough thread for a nation.”

“So, what happened to Ariadne?”

“Nobody really knows, Vetfaan, there are variations in the myt,.depending on who tells the story. Some say she committed suicide, others maintain she was abandoned on some island. Most agree that she had a sad end.”

Servaas nods slowly. “The price of honesty. That’s the problem. Few are brave enough to face the truth…”