Thursday, October 16, 2008


(all photographs by safari craig.

who has it? who doesn't?

what is it and who says?

and how much does one person need, for godsakes?

the world has gone crazy.

my friend michor in amsterdam, said that the biggest bank in holland has just crashed and has been nationalised. in the mean time the boss man just walked away with 23 million euros in his back pocket. how come? if the bank ran out of money how come he got it all then? who gave it to him? why didn't they put that money back into the bank to save it? and how come he got SO MUCH? what FOR? he clearly mis managed the entire frigging bank. why didn't get he get fired, with 500 bucks in his back pocket?

and then i read of children dying of malaria and other easily curable diseases in the DRC because there are simply no clinics and no drugs. there are doctors. who are desperate.

call me stupid but i just don't get it. i don't understand it at all. feel free to rise to the challenge and explain it to me in simple terms.
i don't buy the "oh its all relative". what's relative to 23 million euros in the back pocket of some failed dutch banker?

i have understood that people borrowed too much money from the banks (people who shouldn't have been leant the money in the first place), to buy their houses, and then couldn't repay the banks back. why is it that we need to drive ridiculously expensive cars, why do we need ridiculously expensive and overlarge ostentatious houses? or even worse, why is it that for the tiniest of concrete living spaces, so tiny you couldn't swing a cat in it never mind keep a cat in it, in some of the biggest cities of the world, we would pay about the same as we would for a luxury sailing yacht??? my very clever friend johnnie b tried explaining it to me on sunday by the pool. i glazed over, nodding distantly, like i do when i look into a car engine, or when someone tries explaining the art of car mechanics to me.

actually, i think all these big bank people and hedge fund people (hedge funds???? wot ees theez - money under the hedgerow?) have just been too goddamn greedy and wicked. i might be walking on very thin ice by saying this, but that's how i understand it, from my lowly, african perspective. GREED.

someone should write a book: Beginners Guide To The Great Depression Of The Twenty First Century: What Went Wrong.

Or rather The Idiots Guide To.....

i understand wealth, almost like a maasai. the maasai think they own all the cattle on the entire planet. (that's why craig and i never went into cattle farming. it wouldn't work around these parts...our cows would be theirs automatically, of course. maasai do not understand fences.) the maasai herds wander the great dusty northern maasailand plains and mean everything to them, second to their children. they kill for their cattle. their homes (bomas) and their children and their cattle mean everything. a man without children or cattle, is not a man. a woman who does not bear children is not a woman. a warrior who winces during circumcision will be forever derided. rules are clear and tradition is strong. there is still connection to ancestral spirits and the earth. of course the weather means everything. if the rains fail, so do the herds.

i remember speaking to a manager at a zanzibar resort, who is maasai. he said there is a real problem with boys leaving school at the age of 14 /15, when they become moran. warriors. when you become a warrior, no-one can tell you what to do anymore. all you have to do is look good, for the women to admire. you wander after the herds and you go walk about - to see the world - before you have to take on all the responsibilities of an adult. so he said, who on earth would want to miss out on this opportunity? on this freedom? indeed. who on earth?

from an early age, the children play games with stones or clay figurines representing cows. once they are old enough to walk and talk, the small kids are given the goat herds to tend to...and of course, once you become a warrior, its the herds you are responsible for. my friend lieve, who is a vet, said that the maasai are about the only people around these parts who pay her cash up front for all the work she does for them. beating the posh horse owners to it.

the maasai nomadic way of life is changing. all cultures change. nothing is static. the grazing lands are shrinking. maasai are becoming less nomadic. the missionaries are trying to make christians out of them. hideous three eyed missionaries with barely an education in hand, only a misguided fear of some puritanical god. don't get me started. i am permanently outraged by missionaries thinking they know better than a maasai warrior who owns over a thousand head of me a favour. convincing them that unless they convert they are doomed to some, say, islamic hell???

i wrote a song once, which has a vicious little verse in it....

"keep your gods in all your temples

your missionaries at home

keep your guilt on the genocides

and your fears of the unkown."

dangerous subject. missionaries have also done some incredible work in africa. saving lives, starting schools, clinics, and dedicating their own lives to the alleviation of poverty. living in remote places. i remember doctor cairns from katete mission hospital in zambia. he was at one stage regularly beaten up by renamo fighters, coming across the mozambique border into zambia. he never gave up. he stayed on, saving life after life, as many as he could. he is an unsung hero. a good man. my mother died in his mission hospital, after her car accident. he was so kind and supportive to my dad and the other casualties, my father wanted to repay him for his kindness. he and his wife loved music so my father wanted to buy him a stereo and some classical records. when he asked him which was his favourite music, doctor cairns simply gave my father a list of drugs they were desperate for at the hospital. he was a very good man. he gave almost 50 of the best years of his life to the zambian people. and died poor in possessions but rich in heart, i should imagine.

perhaps its the right winged missionaries i'm thinking of.

it's the self righteous notion that someone else's foreign god is more important than yours, or rather the one in existence...more important and right than belief systems which have been in place, and changing naturally, for thousands of years.

for the most part, the maasai are still rich.

mess with their cows and they'll kick your arse (and your gods) to outer mongolia, whilst nicking all the cattle from there (and some of your women) and bringing them home in one victorious, whooping, wealthy dust cloud.

if i'm not mistaken.


family affairs said...

You are so right - it's pure greed and the world has gone mad and Craig's photographs are AMAZING xxx

Dumdad said...

Powerful, thoughtful post.

Financial greed: it was ever thus but this time it's global greed and we're all affected. Even the noble Maasai.

What to do? Just carry on as usual, what else?!

tam said...

Oh, you have so articulated what has been buzzing around in my head lately, since all the 'financial markets collapse' stories started. Clever you, I love this post. I wanted to write about Bonkar and his strawbery jam. Perhaps I still will. It all needs to be said.
I met Dr Cairns only once, when he shared some of Iwomba's pea soup with us one night. or was it green pepper soup? he was amazing, what a guy.

Miranda said...

Great post J, fab. And the PICS! Tam, yes, write about Bonkar and his strawberry jam! Oh and it was most likely Iwomba's green pepper soup, no? - did we ever have peas?

Janelle said...

yeah they are beautiful pics, eh lulu?x
and DD yes indeed. global greed...incredible times really. x j
and darling tam and definitely it must have been green peppers. peas were strictly for christmas...up at the lodge. and write about bonkar and the strawberry jam, yes please! XX janelle

tut-tut said...

Quite outrageously beautiful people, colors, heads, hands, feet.

I don't think anyone quite understands how in the world of anything that makes sense that all these mismanagers, mismanagers on a GLOBAL scale, can walk away with millions and millions and millions of dollars/euros/whatevers. If McCain wins, I may be looking for a new country to live in, but it seems that the vast globalization of stupidity and greed will keep me home.

tam said...

Have just read an article: the $700 billion could: "clear the accumulated debts of the 49 poorest countries in the world twice over. It is 44 times as much as the annual cost of getting every child into school and more than it would cost to give basic healthcare to every man, woman and child on the planet for an entire decade." said...

it's a stuff up. that's what it is. and nobody has answers. and you're right: nothing in the world is relative to 23 million euros.

Reya Mellicker said...

Absolutely FANTASTIC post, Janelle!!!

Yes Yes and YES!!!!!!

Just read yesterday that AIG, an American financial institution that the government just bailed out at a cost of multi millions of bucks, took its executives on a partridge hunting retreat in England where they stayed in a palace. DUH???

Don't ask me to explain it to you because I see it just like you do. Plain old greed.

Once in a trance an ancestor explained to me that greed is an exaggerated form of survival fear. OK, fine. But does it have to get THAT exaggerated? Why isn't there anyone saying to the AIG executives ENOUGH!

I rent a room in a rowhouse on Capitol Hill. I am judged by many because I don't own a house of my own, because I choose to work less rather than more and because I don't have much stuff or nice clothes. But I live well. As I've said on many occasions, compared to most people on Earth throughout history, I live like a queen! I am well fed, always have something good to read, clean sheets on my bed, wonderful friends and beauty all around me.


Thank you.

Frankofile said...

I guess I'm greedy, too, given the huge differences between even 'ok' here and 'poor' in some other places. (Slightly greedy, that is. Not monstrously, 23 m euros greedy.)

And then there's that completely different scale of 'rich in heart'. Thank you for your account of doctor cairns from katete mission hospital in zambia.

Dick said...

Nothing to add other than absolutely right. A fascinating post. Thanks.

Angela said...

Hi Janelle, we haven`t met, but Pam and the girls always talk about you and love you, and from the way you think and write, I love you too. Just letting you know. (Have you heard from Pam, by the way?) Usually I`m on your side about missionaries, but I also knew a few good ones, in Ndola and Kasempa,Za., where my uncle worked. So I guess as in ALL things, it depends on what you make of it.
Thanks for your post! You and Tam and Vanilla should write one big report about your experiences and get the Pulitzer Prize for it!!

Janelle said...

yeah, thanks you all...indeed memsahib, its a stuff up all right..which brings to mind a little phrase of bad swahili
siyo funya fuck up indani jikoni yangu....
more of that should have gone on in the bank loans department
frankofile..yes exactly...there is always a line. x
and dick,. thanks for popping vy!
hope you visit again. x
and angela, hooray!!! karibu! xx janelle

Joëlle said...

Ah Janelle, just love your flow of thoughts, your flow of words. Thank you for the great post.xx

Gypsy Alex said...

I feel like you in this post lately. What a great post!

文章 said...


日月神教-向左使 said...