Coronavirus – A Game Changer? 

Every dog has his day….well maybe that is what this new Coronavirus is all about. After all, it apparently has been passed on to humans from animals, but probably not dogs. However, the way that the world has handled the annihilation of so many animal species through human greed and ignorance has probably resulted in this being the price we are all going to pay as we face the stress and anguish of a virus which may have the potential to reduce the earth’s human population if it goes totally out of control. Who knows if it isn’t going to be a case of we, the clever, educated, know-it-all homo sapiens becoming a rare commodity one day and animals having the last laugh!

Picture if you can the following scenario: Mummy Rhino takes baby Rhino out for the day and they happen to come to a fenced area with a sign on the front reading “only 100 of this rare species, known as the human race, are to be found worldwide”. Baby looks at the creature in the enclosure and, sounding puzzled, asks Mummy, “what is that animal?” Mummy replies, “My boy, that creature is the reason that our little family is so small and that you only have a couple of cousins.  Those cruel individuals used to kill us so that our beautiful horns could be sold to some unintelligent yellow people across the sea. They were so stupid that they believed that our horns had amazing, almost magical health benefits. It was all a lot of unintelligent garbage, but it meant that we Rhinos were hunted and butchered, often leaving little babies without their mums.”

“So, what happened to those cruel creatures, Mummy?” “Well, they all started to get sick, coughing and sneezing, and then gradually dying, one after the other. That one in the cage is one of the few we still have here in Africa, and I don’t feel at all sorry that his species is now endangered, with only about 100 left in the entire world. Have a look at his face and you can see that he is very unhappy to be caged up and have animals staring at him every day, but he is having to suffer for the cruelty and greed of his ancestors and now knows how we felt when those of us who were not hunted, were often caged and gawked at in zoos around the world”.

“Let’s go Mummy, I don’t like this place and that strange person makes me feel very sad thinking about all our poor family members who must have been killed by people like him.”

Update and Comments: 16 May 2020

The end of the world as we know it?

It is getting more and more difficult to stay positive here in South Africa during the lockdown and being isolated from family and friends. Unlike in other parts of the world, it seems to be more about turning the country into a police state than protecting the vulnerable. There are just way too many ridiculous rules being made with no explanation given as to the reasoning behind them. There is also an unacceptable level of violence being committed by those whose job it should be to protect the public. How are we meant to maintain sound mental health when we are bombarded constantly with distressing statistics and reports of violent behaviour.

Hundreds of South African schools have been vandalised, and in many cases set on fire, during the past few weeks of lockdown, and this is a country desperately in need of education. There is absolutely zero control over crime, and this has been the situation for years now. Currently many things have gone completely crazy, as the emphasis is on checking for illegal cigarettes and contraband alcohol, due to the ban of the sale of these products during lockdown. This kind of draconian control has no intelligent reasoning behind it. No-one had the common sense to consider that there should have been 24-hour armed surveillance at all schools whilst they were unoccupied. Instead, they became an easy target with laboratory equipment, computers, in fact anything the thieving swines could get their hands on was stolen.

The control is over the middle-income (not going to be middle-income for much longer) group as the poor do not heed such things as social distancing as it is not part of their culture. They are the ones who are suffering from food shortages due to so many employers being unable to continue with their businesses and being unable to pay their staff. Some will receive a smaller amount than their usual income from unemployment pay-outs, but this is likely to take quite a while to be implemented and people need to survive in the here and now. The government are proving to be totally inept when it comes to preventing hunger among millions of poverty-stricken individuals.

It has been so easy to convince the masses, mainly uneducated and usually totally illiterate, to always vote for the ANC, as for many they honestly think that Nelson Mandela has something to do with the party today. How very wrong can they be?

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Update and Comments: 18 April 2020 – Lockdown!

Lockdown

I heard the best ever reaction to our lockdown, from my 6 year old grandson. When he was told by his mother that our president had extended the period for our isolation, he apparently was absolutely thrilled, “Oh, great! I love lockdown. I wish we could always have lockdown!” The reason for this euphoria is all due to his parents devoting hours and hours (whilst they still have had to try to work from home) finding exciting and unusual ways to entertain two boys of 6 (going on 7) and 2 (going on 3)years of age.

I imagine that when this is all over, and we are able to return to some semblance of normality, the parents of these two children will breathe a united sigh of relief as they will probably be far less exhausted being back in their respective work environments than they are in their own homes right now. Everything from finger painting, building Lego, making a fort using their bunk beds as well as outdoor furniture, having an indoor obstacle course created for them, bouncing as a family on the trampoline, chasing around the garden, making muffins ….the list goes on and on. They are very lucky to be living in a home where there are parents who are able to give them this kind of attention and also where the fear of having no food to eat is not part of the equation.

At the other end of the continuum are the millions of poor families who suffer so badly whenever anything unexpected takes place. Whether this is bad weather, illness, a collapse in the economy resulting in job losses or, as is the current situation, a previously unknown epidemic, they are the ones who need to be remembered and helped wherever possible. Unfortunately, where a country has an almost collapsed economy the plight of millions of people becomes a bigger problem than the epidemic itself.  It is, however, heartening to hear of the extremely generous donations being made by people such as Nicky and Oppenheimer – R1 billion; Mary Oppenheimer and daughters  – R1 billion;  the Rupert family and Remgro Ltd. – R1 billion; the Motsepe family and associated businesses – R1 billion, as well as R1.5 billion donated by Naspers, part of which will go towards the Solidarity Response Fund established by the government to help limit the lockdown’s impact on the economy and those who are living in poverty.

As is so often the case, there are normal individuals who have put their hands in their pockets to give whatever they are able to afford, as well as giving time to assist where they can, for example sewing masks for local hospitals.   Radio stations have come on board together with big companies in trying to help those suffering the most but only time will tell just how bad the outbreak is going to be and how quickly all the informal workers as well as the self-employed can start working once again and avoid an even greater disaster than the pandemic itself.

The whole world is reeling from the shock of this epidemic and all we can do is to try to remain positive and to keep in touch with others who may be in isolation and alone. A phone call to say that you are thinking about them may make a big difference in their lives at this challenging time, just knowing that someone cares.

Wash your hands, sanitize, wear that mask if you go out, and more than that let’s all try to enjoy the day we have today and hope that tomorrow is here for us all and finds us well and still sane!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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The New Royals

The New Royals – or just stupidity?

When you read the word Prince or Princess, what normally pops into your mind? More than likely it is crowns, castles, palaces, and most of all a way of life foreign to the majority of us. Over the years there appears to have been an emergence of a pandemic affecting a large percentage of parents and their offspring which is going to have a longer lasting effect than the Corana Virus (Covid-19), in my possibly slightly jaded opinion, and that is this new bunch of royals in the making.

No, I am not referring to children who are being born into royalty. This is a case of crazy behaviour amongst so-called educated humans whereby they fawn over their children and refer to them as “my little princess” or “my prince”. I have even seen invitations to baby showers where the sex of the unborn baby has already been revealed and the invitation reads “Princess baby shower”. It just doesn’t bode well for the future when, even before it is born, a child is elevated to the level of royalty.

Over the years I have been into many homes where there are signs on bedroom doors announcing the fact that a little princess or prince inhabits the room. In one case recently, the father of one of these so-called princesses said that his 4 year old daughter is totally out of control being very cheeky and refusing to listen to her parents at all. What is wrong with the world when a father sounds as though he is actually intimidated by his own child? Letting the little cherub believe that she is a princess is hardly the way to instil socially acceptable good behaviour and manners, not to mention respect.

Many years ago, I recall reading an article where the author made the observation that we should treat our children as if they are on loan to us. It was something of a wake-up call as she, the writer, made the point that none of us know for how long we will have our children. The message was to enjoy them, teach them well, but to always be aware of the fact that they are on loan to us from a higher power (will not get into religious discussions on my blog, so the interpretation of this statement lends itself open to personal beliefs). At no time was there any mention made of having to treat these children as demi-gods, or princesses and little princes. The message was to value the time that you have with your children and to do the very best that you can to have meaningful relationships with them and to try to teach them well. I found this a very profound statement.

On the subject of the word “princess”, there is a worldwide situation whereby many women are still striving to be taken seriously, especially in the business arena. Salaries are often much lower for a woman doing the exact same work as her male counterpart and is something which is an ongoing bone of contention. If one considers this scenario, and the fact that it may take many more years before the situation is sorted out for a lot of women, then what on earth is the point of treating your daughter as a little princess? If you want her to be able to handle life in the fast lane as a successful businesswoman, doctor, lawyer, teacher etcetera, then you are doing her a grave disservice by doting on her and pandering to her every whim.

Another point which I would like to make is the issue of the millions of women worldwide who still have an ongoing struggle to be given basic human rights. In some countries, and due to archaic laws, education has been limited to the males of the species whilst women are still treated as second class citizens and have to obey their fathers and later their husbands, and sometimes even their brothers, whilst living within the boundaries of a patriarchal society . In some cases, these women are actual genuine princesses within their own community, but they are controlled by the males and often have virtually no say in the running of their own lives. Given a choice they might well prefer not to have the title of “princess” in exchange for the freedom of life in a western society.

Think about the fact that by treating your little darlings with kid gloves and spoiling them with everything their heart desires, you may be elevating them to think that they are better than their playmates. Behaviour is taught, be it good or bad, and children come into this world as a blank slate upon which the caregiver (parent in most cases)  has the power to write the script.  One should take cognisance of everything which subsequently becomes written on that slate, and having some humility as well as confidence and caring for others should be way up there at the top of the slate! Once again, I am going to leave you, my valued reader, with the thought that we are responsible for the next generation – of princes and princesses? One can but hope that this is merely a ridiculous passing phase, which may have been fuelled to a large extent by Disney as well as all those toy shops displaying an abundance of “over the top” prince and princess outfits, designed specifically for all the mini pseudo royals in the making.

“In fairy tales, the princesses kiss the frogs and the frogs
become princes. In real life, the princesses kiss
the princes and the princes turn into frogs.”
– Paulo Cuelho

Psychopathy

There seems to be a great deal of information quite readily available these days regarding the rather disturbing incidence of psychopathy. I watched a documentary recently which involved a young boy of around 4 years old who has already shown frightening behavioural patterns which would seem to indicate that he is possibly a young psychopath in the making. His mother, when interviewed, said that he had already killed a kitten by microwaving the poor creature, and was constantly harming other defenceless creatures and showing no remorse whatsoever. It must be extremely unpleasant to witness this kind of behaviour in such a young person, but what is one supposed to do?

The answer is quite clearly that the parents need to get professional help as soon as such disturbing tendencies are noticed. Depending upon one’s financial circumstances, as well as the country in which one resides, this may be easier said than done.

Years ago, if a child committed any kind of act which was deemed to be anti-social or plain cruel, the parents would have most likely taken a belt to their backside and punished them with taking away any privileges. However, what we don’t know, is just what effect such punishment ultimately had on the child and if possibly it exacerbated the occurrence of the disturbing behaviour. If we take a person such as the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer it would seem that he appeared to be a normal, happy boy during his early childhood. He had surgery for a hernia and, according to his mother, his personality began to change thereafter with him becoming withdrawn and morose. However, there was also the added stress of a baby brother being born, and then his parents divorcing. So, is it possible that the surgery itself may have, through the anaesthetic having been administered, paved the way for his becoming a psychopath? Interesting thought, but has it ever been the subject of research, one wonders.

In many documented cases where a mass murderer has been arrested, tried and found guilty, there often seems to be a common thread running through the personalities of many of them. This commonality appears to indicate an innate desire to harm, torture and destroy, with a total lack of empathy, and no feelings of remorse for their actions, from a very young age.

Although psychopathy and sociopathy are both classified as mental disorders, and are both antisocial behaviours, there are differences. Psychopaths are believed to be born and their condition is theorised to be due to the underdevelopment of the area of the brain which is responsible for impulse control. Sociopaths, on the other hand may develop these behaviour patterns through physical or emotional abuse in childhood. What is concerning is the estimated percentage of people whom we are likely to come in contact with, who are possibly psychopaths. They may be in our work environment, or at social gatherings and yet we possibly view them just as unfeeling individuals or plain antisocial in their behaviour and we may tend to avoid them as much as possible. Many psychopaths will never end up in jails or psychiatric institutions, but they may still be capable of wreaking havoc on those with whom they come in close contact, such as family members.

I remember as a child picnicking on a beach one Sunday morning with my parents, and next to us was a boy of about 7 years old who was with his grandmother. He appeared to be very intense and somewhat morose and he seemed to be completely engrossed in building little humps of sand with his spade. When my father asked him what he was making, he replied in a very creepy voice  (rather unnerving in  such a young child), “I’m building a graveyard!”. His tone gave us the shivers and one has to wonder just how he turned out when he grew up. Another Jeffrey Dahmer perhaps? Or maybe another Stephen King? Who knows, but gives one something to ponder.

“People who do hideous things, do not look like people
who do hideous things.
There is no face of evil.”
– Martha Stout (American Psychologist)

Update and Comments: 20 March 2020

Confusion reigns

We all believe that we are invincible and that anything which is happening in another part of the world is not going to affect us in any way. How wrong can we be, as this Corona Virus (Covid-19) virus is proving to us all. The fact that we are able, through all the technological advances at our finger tips, to follow the lives of fellow humans all over the globe, can cause mass panic and fear amongst us and this is becoming more and more evident as the number of diagnosed cases increases.

Somehow, we have all been led to believe that the government and its policies will look after us when disaster strikes. We forget that every one of these so called “leaders” are just mere mortals like the rest of us. They have a tremendous task, when unforeseen events occur, to try to convince the population at large that they, the so-called people in charge, are aware of the problems and are in a position to offer solutions.  I suppose this is their way of attempting to prevent us all from going stark staring mad due to fear and panic. The trouble is that they are often spouting promises with little actual facts at their fingertips as to how to solve the problem at hand.

All one is hearing right now is how shelves in retail stores are stripped of items such as toilet rolls and hand sanitizer! For goodness sake, what happened to good old soap and water? It is a sad fact of life however that for many people in South Africa, as well as many other parts of the world, the availability of running water is a pipe dream (rather an unthinking pun, for which I sincerely apologise!) and those same people are not in a financial position to purchase expensive hand sanitizers. When you live in a crowded environment and have to queue up to use communal toilets, I hardly think you can afford to buy economy packs of 2 ply loo paper either. So, the more clued up you are about health and safety, sometimes the more idiotically you behave. One would have thought that, if you can afford to bulk buy in order to protect yourself, you would be in a reasonably good financial position which should surely be linked to a certain level of education and/or intelligence? Apparently not, if all the hooliganism surrounding the purchasing of toilet paper is to be taken seriously.

Whilst I may appear to be flippant about this pandemic, it is certainly not the case. One is constantly second guessing just how to carry on when making a living is all important. Being surrounded by others who are losing their jobs, having functions cancelled upon which their livelihood depends is very distressing, and it’s not easy to remain positive right now. We have abundant challenges world-wide every single day, even without the threat of coming down with the virus, but we just have to try to band together (from a distance, and after sanitizing our hands!) and offer emotional support if possible. Doesn’t the old adage say that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger? Well, we can only hope that this proves to be the case right now.

As I am writing this, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and all is well in my little neck of the woods. The gate, which was hit by lightening a month ago has finally been repaired, my flat tyre on my indispensable little Hyundai i10 has been fixed, and I managed to get my doctor to issue a repeat of my prescription without having to spend time sitting in a waiting room which was jam packed with coughing and sick looking individuals.

So, all is well in this neck of the woods for the time being at least. Hope all who read this missive are taking the right precautions, and if you are quarantined, read all those books which you have been stockpiling for that elusive day when you have some time on your hands.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and Comments: 14 February 2020

Pavlov and the salivating dog scenario

Well, our dear Kelly, who is now 16 months old and an almost fully grown, very spoilt and rather bolshy German Shepherd, has finally decided that the pool can be a lot of fun. It has been a bit of an effort to get her to realise that, if she gets in on the top step, she can stand quite comfortably. Ever since she was a young puppy, she has had an obsession with water. She was the only member of her puppy socialisation class who raced straight over to the large bowl of water in the middle of their cordoned off area and proceeded to splash around like a lunatic. Here at home, being sprayed all over whilst the garden is being watered, is the fun activity on a hot afternoon, but this summer she has been reticent about getting into our pool.

Allthough last summer we did manage to encourage her to venture into the pool on two occasions, she made sure to get as far away as possible from me each time I had a swim. Obviously dreading my trying to get her to join me. So, last week, we decided that it was time to get her over that barrier of avoidance and try to coax her into the water. After all, we are heading towards the end of summer, so it’s now or never. My better half (so named for this article at least!) put the chain on Kelly and she soon decided to slide onto the top step of the pool. That first day we didn’t force any swimming, but she seemed to enjoy the wading around for several minutes, before trying to clamber out on her own. She has serious hip dysplasia (which was never revealed to us by the breeder) and swimming is highly recommended for her.

On day two, as soon as she had the chain around her neck, it did the trick and she didn’t need to be chased around the garden. I removed the chain as soon as she was in the pool and that day, I actually pulled her off the top step and she swam like an Olympic athlete and appeared to be very proud of her achievement. We had decided that we should put a few layers of bricks on the top step to assist her so that, instead of her having to struggle with her weak back legs, she is able to clamber out with her dignity intact.

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The point I am making here is that, when one looks at how relatively easy it is to teach a young dog, then Pavlov’s theory of Classical Conditioning is certainly what it’s all about. She associates the chain with the fun of getting into the water. Fortunately, there is no food involved in Kelly’s swimming training, so it is far more pleasant to see her doing her strong strokes in the water than salivating all over the place! Maybe I will soon be able to show her the chain without actually putting it around her neck, and she will get into the pool with no encouragement so she can have her daily swim. It makes one feel a bit more comfortable knowing that, if she were to fall in the water, she now recognizes that she has to swim to the shallow end in order to be able to get out.

It is much easier to waterproof a dog than a child, but the responsibility of ensuring that there are no unforeseen occurrences is something which one has to be aware of in order to prevent a tragedy. Taking responsibility is part and parcel of life, whether we like it or not.  Therefore, it is with a certain degree of relief that we now know that Kelly is a good swimmer and knows how to get both in and out of the water without any discomfort.  In fact, today she didn’t need to use the bricks at all and clambered out with total ease. Success!

I am off now to get the canine family member back in the pool, as rainy weather could arrive unexpectedly judging by the rather threatening clouds I can see from my office window.

“I’m trying to do the best I can
– Michael Phelps

Oh, nearly forgot – for those of you who are romantics – A very Happy Valentine’s Day for 14 February.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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