To Velfie … or not?

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Velcome to the vicarious vorld of the velfie

People will believe anything! How many times have you heard somebody speak arrant nonsense with absolute conviction? Often, I am sure. How many times have you called for an explanation or a source and heard the reply, “But it was on the TV/in Die Son”? 

Astonishingly, in our era of information overload, people seem to become less and less informed. Access to more and more information seems to be the death of actual knowledge. Because I can get hold of information, I don’t have to retain it, digest it, discern the truth and nuances in it, test it for validity or ground it in real experience = in other words, make it my own in a way that makes me a wiser or more insightful person. More is considered to be better and depth is a waste of time.

Download culture

The German Dubsmash website claims it has 50 million downloads in 192 countries. The success of smart phone apps phenomena sweeps across the globe. But whether it is a blessing or an illness of our times remains to be seen. Unlike the static selfie, the velfie craze, an Indian invention, claims that it is more social because it can speak emotions, has a pause-play feature and subtitles. In its short life it has had 200 000 downloads in 140 countries. This removed and virtual interaction is a far cry from real social connection. A face-to-face conversation requires engagement with another soul in physical and emotional circumstances that impact on the contact in ways that force one to have courage and empathy, or reveal the lack thereof. Deception of the self or the other is more difficult. But in cyber reality fake is fashion.

Who embraced it and to what purpose?

Bollywood film industry stars post videos of old movie classics lip-synced onto their own faces. Sport stars strip the clothes off their false tans and photo-shopped bodies for their fans. Anybody can now be seen and heard to sing a hit song. Politicians can speak ‘directly’ to their electorate, infusing whatever promise they make with ready-made ‘sincerity’.

The velfie lends itself to shallow consumer values, but has far worse potential. Entertaining it may be, but is it real? How many people that use it have the discernment to separate it from truth? Imagine the politicians that will be elected on the false promises made in this way, the terrorists recruited by convincing megalomaniacs, the children seduced by perverts. Because it is a global craze does not mean it does not pose a global threat.

The velfie is a powerful tool. Be awake. Take care to use it wisely.

Racism and the new South Africa

<img src="racism.jpg" alt="Racism" width="300" height="219">Racism and the new South Africa – Is our democracy doomed or developing?

By the merest chance I flicked through a school textbook the other day. I love history, and in my naïve and proudly-South African moments I have high hopes that our current regime will be more fair, inclusive and truthful than the previous one. We all know that old Jan van Riebeeck was a corrupt VOC official whose shenanigans were unlikely to have stopped once he was banned to the Cape of Good Hope. The old school books did a whitewash (bad pun…) of his dubious character to create a mostly fictitious Volksvader. I don’t know any white person who actually believes all that nonsense in the old history books. So it was with shock that I read the slanted view of history once more disseminated by those that approve what school aged children are fed.

Voting Fodder

Much as one wants to believe that people in education actually try to educate, the content is disturbingly selective (at best) and contra-educational (at worst). Is there a possibility that our leaders do not want us to think, because if we do we might become aware of their shortcomings and not vote them in again?

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. [Henry Ford]

The bias in the history book is also contra-inclusivity. With xenophobia rife in our country, we need to be ultra-conscious of material that causes division and racial hatred. As if it is not the height of irresponsible behaviour (not to mention hate speech and racism) to encourage anti-white hatred by the singing of “One Boer, One Bullet” and “Umshini Wam” by our leaders, to feed children prejudicial historic information sets them on the road to hell. Are we to learn nothing from the past?

One can but appeal to parents and teachers to be informed and just themselves, and serve as corrective influence on the children of our beautiful land. No group (race, colour, creed or gender) is without its shadow; we all have blood on our hands. Only substance can cast a shadow. To deny one’s shadow leaves one without the equipment to deal with reality. Isn’t it time to tell children the truth and set them on a real path towards making the world a better place for their children?

Svalbard Global Seed Vault: FUTURE SALVATION

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Global Seed Vault : MONSANTO – Seeds of Evil?

The Monsanto Vegetable Seed Company and Genetically Modified Foods recently came under the loop once again, provoking heated debate and contradictory opinions from different sources. Monsanto are being called unflattering names such as Seeds of Evil, Seeds of Suicide and Monsanto’s harvest of Fear. They are accused of destroying farming, holding the monopoly over the seeds farmers are buying at a considerable price. This system is even considered flawed and a health risk by some. In their defence, Monsanto are aiming to provide in “an immediate need to harvest more quality, nutritious food from each unit of land, water and energy”.

No matter who is right and who is at fault here, the fact remains that resources are dwindling with the challenge of an ever growing human population on earth. Mother Nature could reach a state where she might not be able to keep on providing for all of us. We are the ones who crippled her and we will now have to find healthy ways to care for ourselves and our world in the years to come, in a healthy and responsible manner.

SVALBARD – New Noah’s Ark or Overpriced Deep Freeze?

As with many other cases where the survival of the earth and all it’s inhabitants are in question, money is the first and biggest factor taken in consideration. This is usually where all the fights, motivation and education kicks off big time, in the hope that some of the so called “big fishes” somewhere will take notice and give their support to the worthy cause. The inevitable question arose whether the Svalbard Seed Vault is a necessity for the survival of the world or merely an overpriced deep freeze.

If the major financial role players in the project are taken into consideration, one might find the answer. The charitable Bill Gates Foundation invested some $30 million. The Government of Norway, the Rockefeller Foundation, Syngenta Foundation and of course the notorious Monsanto Corporation amongst a few others, also invested millions in the so called doomsday vault.

Save for Doomsday – The Svalbard Way

Seed banks are vulnerable to all sorts of catastrophes. The Svalbard seed bank was built to protect the world’s food sources for the survival of human civilization in a post apocalyptic world. It contains duplicate samples or copies of a diversity of seeds of the world’s most prized crops held in other seed banks all over the world. This is a backup plan in the event of those being lost or destroyed. Seeds are kept frozen in a stable environment of humidity and temperature of -18 oC (-0.4 oF). They are stacked in alphabetical order in plastic containers on steel shelves inside the vault and can be preserved for 200 to 2 000 years or even much longer. The seeds itself are stored in four layered envelopes to protect it against humidity.

The impressive US$9million (NOK 45 million) seed bank who opened in 2008 was built on Spitsbergen Island in Norway inside a sandstone mountain. This area was specifically chosen for it’s lack of earthquakes and other such dangers, temperatures, the height above sea level (120 metres or 390 ft) and a local coalmine providing the power for refrigeration. This is like a safe deposit box in the bank. The bank owns the building, the content of the box is owned by the depositor and no-one else has access to your content.

In the case of any large scale global disasters, natural or induced such as floods, fires, change in climate, and war, the seeds in the secured Svalbard vault might be our best hope for feeding the world some day.


Author: Maritha Koortzen

The author writes to various websites and newspapers mostly on Health and Social Issues. She also talks at Ladies Events about Health and Wellness.

Feel free to contact her for any freelance writing.



U.S. Gay Marriage Legislation

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The U.S. Gay Marriage Legislation and what it means

It is hot news and a conversation topic that The United States of America has passed legislation that legalizes gay marriage on a Federal Level. What this means is that each state now has to issue Marriage Certificates to same sex couples. As we all know, gay marriage has been legal in South Africa since 1994. However, what is passed as law is not always observed in practice. A law cannot change the hearts and minds of people, but it can make them think about what they believe and perhaps to question that. People have very strong feelings around their sexuality, and the problem of being accepted or not as a gay person and couple lies deeper than the law. However, when the most responsible body in the land makes a public statement like this, it tends to make people wonder if they should reconsider their cherished beliefs. Gay Marriage has the potential to change lives.

Gay people are no different from other people.  The fact that they have been treated differently, and been ascribed with all sorts of negative attributes due to our moral take on sexuality, has warped the lives of many gay people, including myself. By being reduced to someone primarily known for their sexual orientation, disregarding all else, a lot of humanity is lost. This brings up the argument of nature versus nurture, how much us is what we have been taught in church and school, and how much of what we are is really us? Most people who identify as Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay or Transsexual have a hard time making sense of the world through this lens of disapproval, which due to the human need to belong, becomes internalized and causes many problems in their relationships. A marriage is a type of relationship that not all gay people even aspire to. However, being recognized as normal human beings with the same needs as everyone else is a huge need in the gay community. Gay marriage or the right to be married puts all gay relationships inside a new framework of legitimacy.

My hope is that the U.S. legislation regarding gay marriage will raise the debate to a new platform of equality. One where LBGT folks will be treated just like everyone else with the same reasonably expected human foibles. No longer will the problems we have come about “because we are gay.” As a human race, we face many new challenges and it is time for all members of the human family to become accepting and gracious toward each other. This brings to mind a famous saying: “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.”