Enough to make you sick

Jeremy Gordin his state, and the state of South Africa

The Sermon on the Mount, that collection of sayings attributed to Jesus of Nazareth and found in the ‘Gospel of Matthew,’ can be a complex piece of work to unpick and/or to commentate on. But leaving aside theological and exegetical matters, there’re two sayings to which I’m particularly attached.

The first is from Matthew 5:13 where Jesus asks what happens if the salt loses its savour (‘characteristic taste, flavour, or smell’). What does one do? The second is from Matthew 5:37 where Jesus says: ‘Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.’

As you’ll recall, Prince Hamlet (not to be confused with Prince Harry) says (II.ii), ‘I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory,’ and so on.

The same has happened to me – but there’s an added ingredient. I get these overpowering and debilitating feelings of nausea.

For some weeks, I’ve researched my ‘condition’ (I guess one could call it), and the doctors told me to have a number of blood tests[i]. But the causes did not seem to be either physiological or the result of the array of meds that, as a diabetes 2 sufferer, ADHD vilde chaya, and grizzled codger, I inject or swallow.

So I researched even further, considering the possible causes and so on. It’s been neither easy nor simple. I’ve had to look into issues such as the human sense of smell [ii]; revisit Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1938 novel Nausea, which made me pretty nauseous when I first struggled through it 55 years ago [iii]; learnt that the mighty Charles Darwin was much interested in ‘disgust’ [iv]; and met (as it were) one Robert Plutchik (1927-2006), who also had things to say about disgust [v].

All these experiences were mildly interesting. “As long as I’m learning something, I figure it’s a decent day,” as our old friend Hunter S Thompson once remarked.

But as you can tell, my researches, consultations with doctors, blood tests, and so on, didn’t really reveal the aetiology of what was troubling me. What I needed to do (obviously) was trace the precise triggers of my nausea. 

As you know, I generally write a weekly ‘column’ for Politicsweb. What this ‘means’ is that I am on the lookout 24/7 (and I mean 24/7, dreams can also be valuable, as noted by my Austrian cousin seven-times-removed, Shlomo Freud) – I am constantly seeking out information, articles and observations on the political and also sociological situation surrounding me (and you) locally and even internationally. Such ‘issues’ are obviously my proverbial bread and butter.

In short, I look for info – mainly from the media but also from wherever it might be found. Let me begin with some minor items and ‘build up’.

In the Jozi suburb in which I live, someone on a local WhatsApp thread wanted to know why there was no water flowing into his bath tub. Someone else on the thread informed him that our local councillor had Whatsapped some days ago that there’d be no water for 13 hours today [vi] because the municipality was doing something or other with the main pipes close by [vii]. Then someone else Whatsapped, “Remember to switch geyser off as running it with no water is likely to burn it out”.

* You see the ‘problem’? … There’s no electricity for most of the day due to so-called loadshedding, which was in full session when the man Whatsapped. I.e., his geyser was off anyway; everyone’s geyser was off (unless someone was running a generator). Now, this ‘refusal’ to pay attention to the situation – this carrying on blithely as though it’s business as usual – distresses me. And the nausea begins.

A certain community newspaper emailed me its weekly newsletter/ agenda, in which I found the following article announced: “Judge Dennis Davis writes about the importance of having an independent judiciary in SA and in Israel”.

* But I know about the importance of having an independent judiciary in SA and how such “independence” has been deeply eroded by the behaviour of the ANC and various handlangers sitting on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and other groups. Remember Judge David Unterhalter?

I even know that the new Netanyahu government in Israel is preparing to pass legislation that will seriously curtail the “independence” of the Israeli judiciary, including the supreme court, one of the last checks on illegal governmental behaviour. So, an attack of nausea begins; the malaise creeps over me.  

But let me pick up the pace here (and leave the neighbours and Jews alone, both have sufficient problems of their own) and turn to, say, the visit by Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.

One reads the words of our foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, including inter alia: “South Africa believes that the only path to peace is through diplomacy, dialogue, and a commitment to the principles of the United Nations Charter, including the principles that all member states shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means”.

* Maybe Vlad Putin, Lavrov et al missed that bit about “peaceful means”. This oversight is possible, given that our government seem to have missed the devastating and murderous war in Ukraine, not to mention Lavrov’s bizarre Holocaust comparisons.

The only uplifting thing about the meeting between the two countries is that the overseas media are full of discussions about German Leopard tanks and US Abrams ones that will (apparently) go to Ukraine, while all that SA can offer the Russkies are JoJo tanks. Nonetheless, pass the sick bag, Alice.

Other morning I caught a radio interview during which the leader of the Patriotic Alliance, Gayton McKenzie, was asked, purportedly seriously, what his party’s strategy was vis-à-vis the DA in the Johannesburg municipality ‘coalition’ – and he answered, purportedly seriously, and as though butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

* It was a plate of piffle. Why don’t he and others like him simply point out that they want the power (it equals money) and will do pretty much anything they need to do to shtup the DA? Ah, more nausea ...

Or what about President ‘Gommagomma’ Ramaphosa’s wonderful letter of the 23rd of January in which he explained how we’ll reduce and then end loadshedding?

* Ramaphosa told us that “recently” he had “held consultative meetings with representatives of labour, business, traditional leaders, religious leaders and the community constituency [and also] met with premiers, metro mayors and leaders of political parties”. He also noted that six months ago he announced a national Energy Action Plan “to improve the performance of Eskom’s power stations and add new generation capacity as quickly as possible”.

Sounded good. But after that, I lost track. All I know is that so-called load-shedding is at level 5 right now – and besides being a major pain in the tuchis for the likes of me, it’s a lot more serious than my tuchis for the country’s economy. What are those headlines floating around today? “Coal exports drop to 30-year low at Richards Bay terminal”. “Load-shedding could cost sugar industry over R700m”. Nausea time again.

Talking of which – surprise, surprise! Business Day tells us that Mineral Resources and Energy minister Gwede “Tiger” Mantashe has “doubled down” on claims he made earlier this month that SA’s crippling power crisis can be fixed in under a year.

* But – I like these ‘buts’ – for this to happen the country would have to push ahead with the government’s (read: Mantashe’s) plan to procure about 1,200 MW of power from Turkish company Karpowership. I wonder why. Nothing, I hope, to do with kickbacks and such-like. Nausea time again.

Well, there you have it. As you know, I’m not keen on the scatological approach to life. But everywhere I turn – and I’ve cut down my list by 50 percent – I encounter people talking outright kak. It feels to me as though the whole ‘journalism project’ (and allied fields) have lost their savour.

With maybe a few exceptions, you can’t find anyone able to say Yea, yea, or Nay, nay. Not in the public or private sector. You might have heard of Ovid’s Four Ages – golden, silver, bronze and iron. You might even have listened to Al Kooper’s ‘Season of the Witch’.

But round here, we’re smack dab in the middle of the Era of Bullshit.


[i] These days, as you probably know, doctors are incapable of figuring out anything without the patient having to undergo a wide and expensive battery of blood tests. Lancet Laboratories SA and facsimiles thereof – that’s where the latkes are.

[ii] Which, as you’ll recall, none of us thought much about until anosmia, a loss of smell, became a Covid symptom. Did you know, for example, that “depending on genetics, a person can potentially have 800 different smell receptors” and that “[s]mell also accounts for as much as 80 percent of the flavour of what we taste” – or so a learned book reviewer in the FT Weekend of January 7/8 informed me.

[iii] Though this could have been caused by the hash and LSD I was using at the time (sparingly, of course) to get through the book.

[iv] If you have a mo’, check out Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872).

[v] Originally from Ireland (I’d guess, judging by his name), Plutchik “proposed a psychoevolutionary [sic] classification approach for general emotional responses, [arguing that there were] eight primary emotions anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy.”

[vi] News just in: the 13 hours have been extended by another three.

[vii] That the municipality has been doing this particular job off and on for about five years, I shall not comment on.