Dam Mischief

I was a bit naughty yesterday, but I’m not sorry. Everyone should be a bit naughty every now and again. I’m not advocating murder or anything. Nothing illegal. Just a bit of mischief, which harms no-one and which keeps your heart young.

As ever with a big news story in the modern era, everyone wants to be the first to share the latest developments and fresh angles. There’s a certain gratification to be found in being the one to tell your friends about the breaking news you have just read. They didn’t know. You informed them. You’re the man (or woman). Noddy badge of honour time.

The water crisis is dominating the news here at the moment, as it has monotonously for several months now. There are no new angles anymore. Even Helen Zille’s tweets are only generating transient, short-lived outrage.

Still, when I put out this tweet yesterday, I was rather surprised when people quickly shared it.

Several people remarked on it and shared it, often with a sad emoji, because it clearly doesn’t look like a major reservoir feeding a city of 4 million people should.

Of course, that’s because it’s actually a picture of Mars.

This composite image looking toward the higher regions of Mount Sharp was taken on September 9, 2015, by NASA’s Curiosity rover. In the foreground — about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the rover — is a long ridge teeming with hematite, an iron oxide. Just beyond is an undulating plain rich in clay minerals. And just beyond that are a multitude of rounded buttes, all high in sulfate minerals.

So, no. This isn’t Theewaterskloof dam “from the Villiersdorp road”. It’s another planet about 55 million kilometres away.

Still, there are some similarities:

The changing mineralogy in these layers of Mount Sharp suggests a changing environment in early Mars, though all involve exposure to water billions of years ago. Further back in the image are striking, light-toned cliffs in rock that may have formed in drier times and now is heavily eroded by winds.

This was never meant to be a social experiment. I lobbed it up there as a bit of a joke. Perhaps naively, I expected everyone to see it exactly for what it was. Instead, there were only a couple of engagements which suggested that*. The remainder simply clicked the Retweet button apparently without even thinking.

I’ve learned something from this, but I suspect I might be just about alone in that.


* One of them was from Jonathan Meyer**
** He’s very anxious for me to point that out to you


South African Twitter was a nice place to be today* as some of the country’s farmers took to the streets to protest about “alleged” farm murders.
I say “alleged” because that’s (primarily) the matter over which there is a degree of disagreement, with the protest protagonists claiming a “white genocide”, and their critics claiming that there is no specific problem. It’s entirely likely that neither party is correct, and rather that the truth lies somewhere in between the two, but you try finding some independent commentary on the subject. It’s like fracking, but with human lives. (Or, I suppose, not, depending on your point of view.)
Even the usually reasonable and reliable Africa Check seems to have ducked this thorny apple, with their convenient “look, it’s really difficult to calculate” response.

It’s all been spiced up with a healthy degree of racism (this being a predominantly white protest and the old SA flag on display here and there) and sharing of fake news (this being 2017 and the old SA flag having been previously on display at other places). It’s certainly brought plenty of previously hidden opinions and feelings to light; as one individual pointed out “This is a good day to work out who to unfriend on Facebook”. Oh, and there have been some PRIZE candidates on either side. But were we all to do that here today, SA social media would be a barren, empty place tomorrow, instead of just the normal tense, bitter powder keg that we all know and love.
Better then just to observe and make mental notes. Or just use the MUTE button. Although each to their own, of course. Heaven help me if I don’t make that abundantly clear.

Elsewhere, our government continues to take the piss on an unprecedented scale, but we’re too busy fighting amongst ourselves to pay any attention to any of that.



* This is sarcasm. Deep, deep sarcasm, thick like treacle. Thick, thick treacle.

Instagram push

While we’re on the subject of photos, I want to further my Instagram usage. It’s becoming (has become?) my “other” social media home (twitter being the first), but I’m pretty sure I’m not getting as much as I could from it, simply because I haven’t got to a critical mass of followers and following yet.

Thus, if you have an Instagram account you think I should follow – whether it be yours, someone else’s or perhaps even both – please let me know. The best way to do this would be to share the wealth in the comments section below or simply to follow me on Instagram.
Note that I’m 6000coza on there because someone else got 6000 first and then promptly didn’t post anything on it. Ever. He also has 10 times more followers than I do, despite having absolutely zero content.


I like to think that they’re all just people looking for my stuff, and that’s great, but then I realise how much they’re getting let down by me (well, him, but you know what I mean…) and that makes me sad.

I’ll be following up on all your suggestions and following back to take a look at your images, so please don’t be shy.
That’s not how social media accounts work. (See 6000 on Instagram for evidence of this.)

Thanks in advance.

2009 Thabo Mbeki nails 2016 Social Media

Love him or hate him (or have no opinion of him because you’re dead as a direct result of his AIDS denialism), you have to admit that this quote from wor Thabs still works rather nicely more than 7 years after he quoth it:

“It seems to me that the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives is becoming entrenched in our country.”

Read it. Then read it again, and suddenly, you look at the UK’s EU referendum, the US election, the Orlando (or any other) mass shooting or terrorist incident, LCHF, SA politics, the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements (and by this, I mean both sides of those arguments), and virtually any other divisive subject in the world today, in a slightly different light.

It’s like we’ve lost the ability to argue reasonably and logically. Everything is immediately charged with emotion and ad hominem attacks, clouding (often conveniently) the real issues and rendering any sensible discussion virtually impossible.

But why? I have some thoughts. You lucky people, you…

Firstly, with “advances” in social media, it’s easier than ever to propagate stuff, and deliberate falsehoods propagate especially well. The individuals behind these deliberate falsehoods aren’t (always) stupid. In many instances, they’re well aware that the deliberate falsehood that they want propagating will be propagated. That’s the whole idea.
But why does that happen?

It’s happens because: secondly, people – even supposedly intelligent people – have a “share first, think later” mentality when it comes to something that fits their agenda. We’re lazy, in the most part. We can’t be arsed to check whether that attractively-presented stat on immigration is genuine or not – we’re outraged that so many/so few foreign people are being allowed into our country. Or whatever. And people must know this so that they can understand why we’re outraged and why they too must also be outraged.

And then, thirdly, the fact that these days, it’s seemingly unacceptable not to have an opinion on something. Things need to be polarised. You must feel this way or that. You need to agree or disagree, and if you don’t, then I’ll tell you why you should. For example, have you seen this attractively-presented stat on immigration?
Yeah. I know. Exactly. I was outraged.

These three add up to a slippery slope that I fear we are probably sliding down at an already unstoppable rate.

But it doesn’t even end there. Sometimes it’s not just bald-faced lies. Sometimes the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods is more subtle and cynical. Omission of facts that don’t quite match with what I want you to believe. Selective reporting of the myriad reasons behind a particular incident, nudging you to consider and concentrate on one aspect far more than another.

The thing is though, if you are having to resort to the propagation of deliberate falsehoods in order to attain your various objectives, then surely you need to look again at whether those various objectives are worth attaining. How strong is your various objective really if you have to deceive people to convince them of its merit?

There is some light at the end of the tunnel. Light like fact-checking website AfricaCheck. But sadly, as the name suggests, they don’t stretch beyond this particular continent. Add to that the fact that the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives has already become entrenched in our digital culture and you’ll understand that they really can’t be omnipresent, let alone omnipotent.

So it’s up to us – you and I – to make the difference. To take just a moment to consider whether that thing we just heard is actually likely to be true. To critically evaluate the source, the fact, and the potential agenda before we take it as gospel. You can delve into it as deeply as you like, but if you’re not sure that it’s actually not a deliberate falsehood, maybe consider not propagating it.

It’s really nothing more than common sense.

I don’t expect to change the world with this post. It sometimes just seems that the voices of sanity are being lost, one by one, drowning in the ocean of crap that’s constantly being peddled and recycled by people desperate for us to agree with them, and who will hate us if we don’t.

I thought I’d just shout for help before I go under.

More on celebrity death

OK, first off, before we begin, I didn’t write this.
Well, I mean, I wrote this, but I didn’t write the thing that I’m sharing.
So don’t shoot the messenger.

Also, just because I’m sharing this, it doesn’t necessarily follow that I’m talking about you. There are plenty of thoughtful pieces out there (you know who you are) which perfectly describe the writer’s feelings about <celebrity> dying without resorting to hyperbole and the exhibition of apparent Munchausen syndrome.
So don’t shoot the messenger.

Those disclaimers aside though, I did enjoy this piece by Alex Proud in the Telegraph.
Oh, I enjoyed it so much.

On Thursday, Twitter, Facebook and various other social networks echoed with the wails of Prince fans who had come together to publicly grieve the Purple One.

In much the same fashion as the reaction to the death of Victoria Wood barely 24 hours earlier, the sites were soon overrun with comments such as “Can’t stop crying, feel so empty. RIP.”

Inevitably, we then had the immediate backlash, where people pointed out that if you are, say, a 45-year-old Surrey-based facilities manager with two children, who had never actually met Prince, mild sadness might be a more appropriate response than utter devastation.

Then we had the backlash to the backlash, where the mourners attacked those who questioned their heartfelt grief. And so on, like ever-decreasing ripples bouncing off the sides of a pool into which a dead celebrity has been dropped.

But ok. I’d argue that it’s not for me (or Alex, or anyone else) to tell people how they must react to the death of these public figures. Perhaps it’s the instant nature social media, and its enforced brevity that concentrates emotions and the perception of emotions. Add to that the narcissism and the egocentric nature of the platforms, throw in the faux-bravado of the anonymous commenter and the general lack of respect that individuals display for one another these days and you’ve got a recipe for the perfect storm, precipitated by the latest celebrity death.

People are over-emoting everywhere.

So you’ve got those “over-reacting” to the news, and you’ve got those “over-reacting” to those who were “over-reacting”. Because:

If your opinion (and the opinions of those like you) have come to dominate the media and the public discourse, then, surely, others are allowed to find this overwrought and tiresome.

Were these people always around? Was it just that we never saw or heard them?
Or is an entirely new phenomenon that has been spawned by social media?

Either way, we’re going to be seeing more of it, and that’s not good news:

Now, God only knows where it’s going to end. We’ve got an awful lot of pensionable celebrities these days and they’re all going to die at some point. Also, how far down the food chain we can take this? If I’m devastated when Kinga from Big Brother shuffles off this mortal coil, is my social grief any more or less valid than the utter emptiness you felt when Bowie died?

Alex Proud takes few prisoners and that column is worth a read.

UPDATE: As is this wonderful Michael Legge post, via Jacques. Thank you.