Saturday 28 March 2020


“A nation loses the place which it once held in the world’s history when money becomes more precious to the souls of its people than honesty and labour. A universal, widespread greed of gain is the forewarning of some upheaval and disaster. Civilisations have been born and completed, and then forgotten again and again.” – Colonel James Churchward 

Millions of Americans expect to receive $1,200 cheques as part of a $2 trillion stimulus deal that was signed off by President Trump on Friday. This was cited to be a measure to combat a sluggish economy by getting the beneficiaries of this handout to spend it, and thus stimulate the nation’s industries by the direct injection of funds. Other governments of first world countries are commencing similar such releases of funds into their economies, hoping thus to stave off a worldwide depression.

An interesting site to view in light of the President’s announcement is the US National Debt clock. I looked at it mesmerised for a few minutes as the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt increased with each fleeting second. You may have heard of the immense economic strife that Greece found itself in through reckless borrowing of funds and unchecked spending. Currently, every Greek citizen owns about $40,000 USD of their country’s national debt. Terrible, isn’t it? Well, you may think, the US is a more powerful country, with a stronger economy, much more resilient finances and home of the richest people of the world. Think again, each US citizen owns about $73,000 USD of the national debt. Furthermore, each taxpayer in the US owns about $191,000 USD of the national debt.

Play around with the US National Debt site. There is an interesting feature called “Time Machine”. Go back to 1980 and see the National Debt per citizen: About $4,000! A lot of money has been printed and injected into the economy since then to “stimulate” it! By stimulation I understand that means the stock market does well, the few filthy rich get richer, the middle classes do less and less well, while the poor get poorer and poorer, each citizen paying a higher and higher price for a “flourishing economy”.

Coronavirus had infected at least 92,932 people in the U.S. as of Friday 27th March and killed at least 1,380 people, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Of course, simply tracking confirmed cases underestimates the actual scale of the problem. Many more cases of infection will lurk in the community undetected. This is particularly the case for a virus like COVID-19 where symptoms can be mistaken for a cold or flu. Without massive investment in testing, cases will always be missed.

New cases of infection and casualties continue multiplying in the USA. New York and Louisiana hospitals are grappling with a flood of patients that threatens to overwhelm their health-care systems, and their resources are dwindling. Meanwhile, the president and political conservatives are increasingly agitating to end drastic restrictions meant to buy time and save lives. The rhetoric is: “Give people a stimulus handout, get them to spend it, and thus end this nonsense over a stupid ‘flu’ which is keeping them from being happy workers and model consumers.”

Politics has always been a dirty game, but especially so in the Trump era. In recent days, a sizeable and growing number of Trump supporters have claimed that health experts are part of a deep-state plot to hurt Trump’s re-election efforts by damaging the economy and keeping the United States shut down as long as possible. Trump himself pushed this idea in the early days of the outbreak, calling warnings on Coronavirus a kind of “hoax” meant to undermine him. The distrust of Science and Scientists runs deep in the psyche of the uneducated, the simple, the ‘average’ person, but also in the twisted mind of the sly opportunists who wish to further their own fortunes no matter what the cost, human lives included. 

Epidemiologists are medical specialists who have been educated for decades in order to be able to give advice on how diseases appear, how they occur in communities and in the case of infectious diseases, how the diseases spread and how we can limit that spread. They act based on their knowledge, their experience and the scientific modelling that they carry out in order to protect communities and increase the health of a population. Their role in these days of COVID-19 is to avert massive numbers of deaths and devise strategies in order to stem spread of disease and make the disease disappear. One of the frustrations of  epidemiologists trying to prevent disease (rather than curing it, as doctors do and with appreciation of the cured patients), is that it’s often difficult for the public to understand the disasters epidemiologists help them avoid.

A noted epidemiologist, Neil Ferguson published a paper on March 16th, outlining the model of Coronavirus infection and its toll on populations. If nothing were done to prevent  COVID-19 infection in the USA, the number of deaths was predicted to reach 2.2 million people. If all patients were able to be treated, there would still be in the order of 1.1-1.2 million fatalities in the US.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call. We are all aware of it, we are all affected by its consequences on our daily existence, we are suffering its effects on our jobs, our leisure, our interaction with family, friends, even strangers. We are all experiencing varying degrees of fear, ranging from foolhardy insouciance, to mild apprehension, to informed alarm, to justified dread, to mindless panic.

We react to the pandemic in direct proportion to our subjective feelings of fear. Foolhardy politicians inject funds into struggling economies and hope that the deaths amongst their political opponents will be higher than the deaths in the camp of their supporters. The rich and famous are mildly apprehensive and plan courses of actions that decrease their probability of contracting the virus (as advised by their exclusive medical care personnel). The thinking, rational, educated person is alarmed and does what epidemiologists and microbiologists advise, lessening their personal risk of infection, but also doing what is best for the community. People who have come in contact with the virus and its effects first-hand are filled with dread and can act irrationally – perhaps justifiably so. The mindless, panic and act unpredictably with often dire consequences.

Open your eyes, unstop your ears, think! Read critically and follow the advice of experts whose job is to protect the lives of everyone in the community – yes, your life too! If you cannot understand something, ask for clarification. If you have been affected personally by illness or death of a loved one, support is available. If you have financial troubles and you cannot cope, there are many places that provide real support and material help – help that goes beyond one-off handouts of money that you spend on consumer goods to support economies and raise stock prices.

You have been asleep in your comfortable, unthinking existence; blithely unaware in your cushy, mindless routine; you have flooded your existence with cheap thrills, huge numbers of consumer goods you don't really need, you have been in pursuit of trite goals. Wake-up! Re-examine your existence. Find again all that is important, really important, in life. Reach out to your family, your friends, your community. If you’re dead, it doesn’t really matter if your stocks do well in the NYSE or if Trump is re-elected (growing National Debt notwithstanding)…

Wednesday 25 March 2020


“My life is like a memento mori painting from European art: There is always a grinning skull at my side to remind me of the folly of human ambition.” - Yann Martel

Memento mori – “Remember you will die”. An apt reminder in these days of COVID-19, with deaths due to infection with this sinister and highly contagious virus climbing to higher and more alarming levels day by day, worldwide. We look at the deserted streets in our cities and we are reminded of our mortality. We look in shock as military trucks in Italy convey scores of corpses to a place where they will be prepared for burial, and memento mori, the Latin phrase resounds through the centuries to remind the survivors that death lies in wait, that they too will die. Madrid in Spain is the new epicentre of COVID-19 in the world and a huge skating rink has been converted to a temporary morgue to hold the hundreds of corpses. News bulletins inform us of increasing infection transmission rates and we are obliged to think: “Am I next? What if I get sick? What if I get very sick? What if I can’t be cured? What if I die?

Most people in our society push the idea of their death into the darkest and deepest crypts of their mind. Our culture has a become a life culture, a youth and pleasure-seeking culture. Death has been sanitised and has become something that is seen mainly on the TV screen, in movies, in video games, as a fitting end to deserving miscreants. We have been given a diet of ‘cartoonified’ death (especially as it relates to an untimely and violent death), where death is trivialised and treated with a contemptuous disregard. The more we see the ease with which death is meted out to others on screen, the more it has made our own death a more distant and unlikely possibility – after all we live in the real world, don’t we?

Think of the hypothetical situation where you are infected with the deadly Coronavirus and the even more hypothetical eventuality where you will be told: “You have two days to live…” What would you do? Is what you do much different to what you would do if you had been told: “You have two weeks to live.” Or perhaps: “You will die in two months…” Or even “You have two years of life left!” What then determines your course of action? Many around the world have had to deal with this scenario, confronting a horrific and rapid death as something they or a family member will go through  in a matter of days.

The religious amongst us may say: Vanitas vanitatum, omnia est vanitas; which you will find in Ecclesiastes 1:1 onward: 
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. 

In the past when life on earth was seen to be a transient and preparatory phase for life eternal, death was seen as a liberation, a door through which we passed to be greeted by the angels of paradise and its eternal bliss. Death was then a part of life and a promise of liberation from all of our wordly cares and toil. None feared death then, provided one lived a devout and God-fearing life with thoughts and deeds as stipulated by the Gospels.

We have ‘progressed’ and ‘evolved’ socially. Our lay society largely views death as an abrupt end to life, an eternal and dreamless sleep – or even more bluntly perhaps, an infinitude of non-being. Is it a surprise then that we nowadays live our life seeking pleasures, riches, enjoyment, shallow and constant gratifications of every one of our whims and selfish desires? Is it a surprise that we shun even the thought of death and remove from everyday existence even the mention of the word? How many euphemisms we have devised to replace the straightforward ‘she died’? “She passed away; she perished; she went the way of all flesh; she crossed the great divide; she went to meet her Maker; she croaked it; she kicked the bucket…” And so on.

Enter Coronavirus from stage left. It brings with it a sharp sickle, shining bright, its blade whetted and ready to be used. All are vulnerable, all may become horribly sick, all are at risk of dying. Yes, dying, not undergoing some strange linguistic euphemistic transmogrification. We are suddenly jolted back into the grim reality of death as an end to life. And even more so we are forced to contemplate the possibility of an unfair, premature, agonising death far from those we love and who love us. A rapid, sombre funeral (if we’re lucky!) to follow, no ‘celebration’ of our life and the telling of funny anecdotes in the upbeat ceremony, no playing of our favourite pop song.

To add insult to injury, COVID-19 has hit at the foundation of our comfortable, pleasurable existence. Worldwide, economies teeter, stock prices tumble, politicians flounder and pass bill after bill in parliament trying to rescue nations from recession, the world from a depression. Shops close, companies fold, our jobs are at risk, our lifestyle with its multitudinous delights has suddenly been degraded, all those activities which readily gave us amusing diversions and pointless recreations have suddenly ceased. The restaurants and bars have closed, the spectator sports have stopped, the cinemas, the discos, the clubs, the multitude of crowd-pleasers that filled our vacuous existence are all ‘temporarily suspended’.

Instead, we are now confined at home and forced to be alone with our worrying thoughts about life, death, the universe and everything. A reassessment of our existence to date inevitably follows. If we are lucky, we share our home with family, a partner, a pet, or even compatible company. The unlucky amongst us close our door and remain truly alone, making the isolation and ‘social distancing’ even more absolute, more trying, more gnawingly soul-destroying.

Really, when we consider everything, is it surprising that we have panicked? Is it so astounding that people all over the world are behaving in very strange ways? It is such great revelation when we see the scenes of mass hysteria, when we observe people doing whatever they believe will avert the possibility of their infection and the highly unpleasant dénouement it often entails? After all that, buying and stashing toilet paper seems to be a logical and greatly satisfying activity, which makes us better able to deal with the insanity of the situation we have to live through. I think I’m running low, I need to go and buy a few rolls…

Tuesday 24 March 2020


“There are, indeed, few merrier spectacles than that of many windmills bickering together in a fresh breeze over a woody country; their halting alacrity of movement, their pleasant business, making bread all day with uncouth gesticulation; their air, gigantically human, as of a creature half alive, put a spirit of romance into the tamest landscape.” - Robert Louis Stevenson 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only. 

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers shall be removed immediately.
Kinderdijk is a village in the Netherlands, belonging to the municipality of Molenwaard, in the province South Holland, about 15 km east of Rotterdam. Kinderdijk is situated in a polder in the Alblasserwaard at the confluence of the Lek and Noord rivers. To drain the polder, a system of 19 windmills was built around 1740. This group of mills is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands. The windmills of Kinderdijk are one of the best-known Dutch tourist sites. They have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme,

and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.
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Sunday 22 March 2020


“I don’t know how one actually would define obscenity. I’m sure the definition is different according to the age one is living in.” - Jane Alexander 

What is it about the acquisition of hoards of toilet paper – of all things! – that has defined the COVID-19 pandemic? People madly rush to buy up all the rolls they can find, and a frenzied scramble it often turns out to be, not without casualties in the course of the battle for the desirable rolls of triple-ply, pure white, cloud-soft, disposable bliss. If you’re lucky you’ll even be the proud possessor of the luxurious, embossed, floral print rolls… Worth every bit the skirmish and the casualties thereof you sustained in order to grab these trophies and proudly carry them home!

Since our kindergarten days, “poo”, “bum” and “wee” have caused uproarious laughter every time they were uttered by your fellow 5-year-olds. “Fart” was an added bonus and toilet jokes were sure to bring the house down. Some of us manage to outgrow this phase and such jokes that rely on the scatological become obscene. Obscene in this case meaning “in bad taste”, “not suitable for intelligent discussion”, “not witty enough to be considered humorous”. Yet, there is living proof that the scatological provides a ready source of material for countless stand-up comedians (especially the low-lifes that rely on embarrassing individuals of the audience, whom they pick on and make the butt – sorry, pun unintentional – of their “jokes”). Similarly, any number of sit-coms where the punchline invariably depends on the “poo”, “bum”, “wee”  and “fart” tetralogy. Not to mention the “blue” pub jokes, which if not sexual are, more often than not, scatological.

A bodily function that is performed in private is for the majority of people considered to be obscene – obscene in this case meaning not to be exposed to public scrutiny: “Ob scaena” what is not allowed onto the stage, what is supposed to remain behind the scenes and only hinted at, or implied, as in classical tragedy. Hence our numerous euphemisms for the shithouse: Toilet, bathroom, powder room, water closet, john, dunny, privy, lavatory, latrine, convenience, etc, etc… 

Ancient Romans did not consider going to the toilet obscene as is evidenced by the rows of toilet bowls next to each other in public toilets in Ephesus, Pompeii and Herculaneum, where you could sit and do your business, while chatting pleasantly to the people next to you. Interestingly, Europeans were amazed when confronted with traditional Tahitian cultural norms, which considered that eating in public was an obscene act and hence such a bodily function would have to be performed privately and separately.

The packaging and marketing descriptors of toilet paper provide us with the ultimate euphemistic package for an obscene, yet necessary, normal, and healthful bodily function. Shopping for toilet paper becomes a decent and socially acceptable duty because it is so hygienic, so delightfully presented, so beautifully described: Pure, soft, lily-white, downy, angelic, gentle and sanitary. “Sanitary”: Hygienic and clean, contributing to health! If using that paper doesn’t somehow protect you against the Coronavirus, what else can?

Most people don’t normally have large stashes of toilet paper. This day and age where space is at a premium in our increasingly smaller and smaller abodes, bulky toilet rolls take up lots of space. Hence one buys as one needs, small numbers of rolls, enough to avoid embarrassment in one’s private (obscene, if you like) moments. Good taste also dictates that toilet rolls remain out of sight, hence one cannot have them in public view. Normally the few rolls that we buy are put in the bathroom cupboard, out of sight until needed.

Many amongst us are control freaks. We want to be in charge of things, run our affairs as we see fit and desire, be masters of our own destiny and ensure that people around us conform with our course of action, which is the only right way to go about things, isn’t it? It’s all about power and empowerment, being in control and not at the whim of fate’s vicissitudes: “I am in charge of my life and not some God-damned new virus that threatens my comfortable and pleasant routines!” Of course that means that there should be plenty of toilet paper around, doesn’t it? Control freaks are so full of shit!

Think of it also another way: Toilet tissue is a cheap commodity that can be put to other uses, for example it can be used as a tissue and if people have a cold and a runny nose, toilet tissue is a ready substitute for the tissues that you run out of. Interestingly, people are more reluctant to use tissues or paper towels or other disposable wipes in lieu of toilet paper in the toilet… Hence the stockpiling of toilet rolls in the case of a pending epidemic respiratory system disease which amongst other symptoms (in the public mind) includes a runny nose (though not necessarily so in actual case!).

Buy toilet paper, be prepared, be hygienic, be in control! Take an active role in your health management and disease prevention! The more you buy, the more your chances of fending off the disease! Toilet paper has become a powerful apotropaic amulet that will stave off infection with COVID-19, and prevent illness, or an even worse fate! You are right, for toilet paper is a worthy trophy for the modern day warriors of the supermarket aisles. All you, soldiers of the grocery store wars fighting tooth and nail for a few rolls of the prized possession, you the modern day knights errant of this, our sick society, you are the ones who are truly and utterly obscene.