"Justice says the world is over," announced Edie. Justice nearly dropped the pot of chocolate sauce he was pouring. He was following her round the table while she scooped ice-cream into bowls of fruit salad.
"Edie I never said that."
"No boet, you never said that. But what you said should not be repeated in polite company." Farleigh sniggered.
"Oh yeah I guess you right but you've taken it out of context and now everyone thinks I'm a fruitcake."
"Specially me," said Farleigh, slurring slightly. "I'll have a slice with my fruit salad." He picked up a sharp knife and waved at Justice's retreating rear end. Edith was about to shriek but Justice muffled her in time and everyone else eagerly tucked into dessert, oblivious.
"So Justice, why do you think the world is over, or what was it you meant?"
"Eish Beth, I guess I just read too much and think too much."
"Really? I always think of you more as a doer. And a talker mind you." Justice laughed sheepishly.
"You're right, I'm not one for sitting still much, so when do I get to think so much? Do you ever surf the internet Beth?"
"Me? No, never. I mean I can use a computer as long as it's running windows. I do my correspondence and financial stuff on the computer. I have thought about getting e-mail and I guess I will one day. I think your father uses the internet, Farleigh?"
"Duh, Father is hardly ever off the internet."
"He says he plays the stock markets."
"And all the others," says Farleigh airily, counting off on his fingers, "Blackjack, roulette, even the one-arm bandits I'm sure."
Beth turned her back on him. Sipping her wine, she turned to Justice. "What about the internet?"
"The thing about the internet is that anything you want to know is there. I like to connect to reliable news sites. With digital news, the site does not have to carry the whole story. It can just be a headline or a brief summary with a link to the source and maybe links to related stories. Even the source article may have links to their original source so if you're really interested in a story you can sometimes trace it back to actual eye-witnesses. You get a clearer picture of what is going on."
"So somewhere you have found a story that the world is over, and yet it's not front page news. You are going to have to try harder than that to convince us that you are not a fruitcake," Beth teased him.
"Okay. First I want to tell you about blogs."
"Blogs? You are not serious."
"Yep. Blogs. They're little self-personalised web pages in which people write whatever they want and hope that other people will read them. Anybody reading a blog can leave a comment about the blog or even about someone else's comment. A whole discussion can get going."
"But what is the point? And why on earth are they called blogs?"
"I have no idea. Actually I think it's short for web-logs or something. But there is good reason. There is a lot of biased reporting happening, there's a lot of media cover-up going on and there are still countries in the world with fascist governments controlling the media. Blogs give people living under such conditions a chance to tell their story. It's a way of sharing information about anything. There are a lot of health issues where people share their solutions which are not dependant on pharmaceutical companies. Or people get a chance to share views on controversial topics. Some people just talk about beer." Justive took a long draught of his wine. "Maybe there are wine-tasting blogs too."
"So how do you know that what people are writing in their blogs is true?"
"Well by the the fact that they are totally open to commentary. I mean we all have our own perspective on truth so by reading a blog and all the comments posted you get a more complete picture of any situation."
"So what did you read?"
"Wait julle," Palesa interrupted them. "Let's go and sit in the living room and relax a bit."
"Yeah come." They all got up and moved into the easy chairs while Justice did refills all round taking care to give Edie the diluted one. As Palesa said, she never noticed.
"So now tell us Justice. Seriously, I want to know. I know about global warming but it does seem to be kept low key in the news."
"You see Beth they're either deliberately keeping the truth from us or it's just not sensational enough to boost sales. Firstly our oceans are really badly polluted. Not just from shipping but also from all the garbage that washes down the rivers. Oceans have also been responsible for absorbing a lot of excess carbon in the atmosphere but they are rapidly becoming saturated. Right here in South Africa we have the problem of the fishing trawlers struggling to make up their quotas so now they want our government to allow them to fish in areas where they were previously kept out because these are the breeding grounds. If they do that we soon wont have any fish left to eat.
"Then there's the global warming curve. A lot of people are pooh-poohing the global warming hype saying that it's been happening for millenia. But if you plot it on a graph it soon becomes apparent that it's a hyperbolic curve that possibly within the next hundred years could approach the vertical line.
"Another thing is the uranium poisoning of the planet. Even here in South Africa we have rivers that are highly radio-active as a result of uranium poisoning just from gold-mining. In the middle east there's a whole area thoroughly poisoned by uranium from the US using so-called depleted uranium to make the casings for the ammunition used in the gulf war. Now there's a big push world wide to mine more and more uranium. To mine uranium is utter madness just in terms of bringing all that toxicity to the surface."
"And now we are living with Fukushima."
"But which rivers in South Africa are poisoned with uranium?"
"One I know for sure is called Wonderfonteinspruit and it feeds one of the dams supplying Potchefstroom with drinking water. Farms along that river have been badly affected. But even without radio-activity, river conditions in South Africa are bad. You know I just spent some months in Qwaqwa. It's a most beautiful place and it's a natural water catchment area. There are about six major South African rivers whose source is in the mountains there. The problem is under the old regime it was never considered a part of South Africa so there was never any infrastructure put in place. Unfortunately, 20 years into the new regime and still nothing has been done. The majority of the villagers are barely surviving and the numerous river banks are their dumping grounds. There are signs every against illegal dumping but no effort has been made to provide the villages with waste removal. At the same time there is an increase in disposable income in terms of social grants. Combine this with the influx of cheap disposable nappies, now the rivers are dead.
"When I was little whenever we visited ngunu we used to fish in that river that runs past her house. Man I remember some really delicious fish braais from those days. Now the fish are all gone; some few crabs and frogs left and poor water fowl dying out from loss of habitat. It's really tragic what us humans are doing to ourselves." Salem had just refilled Justice's glass and he downed it in one go and held it out for more.
"Even the rivers in central Africa are seriously toxic. There's a village in Zambia where all the kids have chronic lead poisoning as a result of copper mining in the area and the mines have been closed for nearly twenty years. Not only the river is toxic but the dust from the old mine dumps too. During the dry season everyone has to hide indoors. But the people are that poor some of them still risk their health scavenging the dumps and other areas of the disused mines for anything of value."
"What about that other thing you told me?"
"Which thing Farleigh?"
"About the ball of fire."
"Oh, that's just my own hypothesis; kinda worst case scenario."
"I thought you was gonna tell us about why you left varsity and went travelling through Africa. Your whole trip n all."
"Ja, I was. It's Edie's fault for hi-jacking the conversation. The worst thing about the environment is the 'official' stand I mean Kyoto protocol which was just so much lip-service and then the Bali fiasco. That was a stinking rotten joke. You're right Ma I shouldn't even think about this stuff while I'm socialising cos I just get so bloody mad."
"So now I've ruined your evening?"
"No, Edie. Actually I'm fine because tonight I'm in that warm fuzzy place where nothing can hurt me."
"I'm at home, Beth, I'm at home."
"Me too. What happened?"
"Danny!" Edie leapt up to assault her brother. "Why you weren't here for dinner?"
"Oh, ja. You told me. I forgot."
"You forgot!" Edie looked like she might throttle him.
"Ag you know sis. Life goes on and then I must come home eventually."
"Oh Daniel," said Beth. "So home is not your warm fuzzy place; just where you go when life stops going on."
"Er, evening Ma'am." Danny starts to realise how drunk everyone is. "Hey, I'm here now. If there's nothing left to eat can I at least get a drink?"
"Oh, Danny boy." Edie was ever forgiving of her beloved brother. "Here's a glass of wine for you. But there is still food. Hare a kitcheneng."
"So Justice do you have any suggestions of how to sort out the state the world is in, or do you just think it is too late."
"It is kinda late but I don't think that should be an excuse to do nothing. Truth is the only solution is too radical for most people. Most human people anyway."
"What do you mean by that?"
"We are all people Beth, not just the humans and for one hundred percent of the non-human people the solution I propose would be loudly applauded by them all."
"And what is that solution?"
Justice put his fingers to his lips.
"First, I promised my Ma here to tell her what I been up to the past ten years. But don't worry Beth we will continue this discussion."
"When we are not drinking."
Danny came out of the kitchen balancing a plate of food, dessert and his drink. "Move over bro, I'm sure I can squeeze in there next to you. Hey where's the table gone?"
"You can have my seat Daniel," said Beth starting to rise. "It is getting late."
"Aw mam, I just got here and it is nice to see you here. Please stay a bit. Have one more drink."
"Oh alright." Beth sat down and Edie jumped up to do the honours.
"So now tell me Justice. Start with what happened at university. Why you left."
"Okay Ma. You see, one of the modules I studied in my first year there was called "History of Construction." It's normally split over the first two years but as I was starting there with my third year I did both parts at once. Actually they were discouraging me from doing it as not being essential to the degree. But it looked so interesting.
"Anyway, it was piss. I sailed through it, I think because I found it so fascinating. The first part was the history of construction in Europe while the second part was the history of European construction in the colonies. They kept insisting that I finish part one before starting part two, like their experiences in the first half justified everything they did in the colonies. It's amazing how much you can learn about the history of the world just by studying such a narrow slice of it. Far more than what I learned in high school history.
"But what I realised, maybe because I was actually studying them simultaneously, the history of construction in Europe was also colonisation. The old European cultures were simple and natural, much like Africa used to be. Until the romans came along. Europe and England were both colonised by the romans."
"And while the romans were colonising Europe the arabs were colonising North Africa."
"Yeah, Salem, I'm sure that's true. Actually the romans colonised it too but only along the mediterranean coast. But it explains why islam is so entrenched in North africa. Only they never completely eradicated the original cultures. North African countries still feel like colonies. Europe on the other hand is totally roman. Except for in eastern Europe, there's hardly a trace of the original cultures. And nobody's objecting.
"But the roman empire collapsed when? Fifteen hundred years back. The old knowledge was destroyed by then and superstition and mistrust were rife. The perfect culture for the growth of the holy roman empire. So under the guidance of this holy roman empire, the countries of Europe, including England, sent out explorers to find other natural cultures to colonise, exploit and destroy.
"Meanwhile Africa is sitting where Europe was fifteen hundred years ago. The colonials have allegedly pulled out; superstition and mistrust is rife. But the legacy of colonialism, the churches, be they christian or mohammedan, are cleaning up. Doing what the holy roman empire did in Europe. They're totally eradicating all trace of our natural cultures. Already the knowledge of our ancestors is virtually lost." His eyes were blazing.
Suddenly he remembered Beth and looked up at her. Her eyes were a bit glazed and she had a look about her that he had never seen before. She looked like a small child who is regularly abused. He had just been starting to feel angry all over again. His mother was looking very worried but her eyes never left his face.
Salem looked positively exultant. Farleigh just stared at him. Edie was asleep on Salem's lap with Danny's head in her hands, but Danny was wide awake, following every word.
"I'm sorry Beth. Come, I can see you're tired." She stood up and took Justice's arm.
"I'm exhausted Justice. Too much wine. Bye-bye Palesa, everybody. Thank you. It was a wonderful evening." She looked at Justice dubiously.
"Don't pack up the party." He was looking at Salem. "I'm coming back."
They walked quietly up the hill. When they got to the house Justice opened the door for Beth. She looked at him. "You don't need to come inside. I'm going straight to bed. Tomorrow, no not tomorrow. One day soon, when I am not drunk, you must run that all by me again, okay."
"Yes Mum." He hugged her warmly. "Sleep tight." She kissed him on the cheek, patted his arm and went inside. He wandered back down the hill deep in thought.
When he opened the cottage door it collided with Edie who was jiving wildly with Farleigh and Palesa to Culture. Farleigh had worn himself out and fell against Justice as he stepped in. Salem and Danny were sitting at the table picking at the remains of the fish. Salem stood up.
"Here." He tossed a banky to Justice who fielded it in spite of having to support Farleigh. "Yay! You don't mind Ma." She looked at the bag of weed he was showing her. "You know my rules."
"No, Ma?" He helped Farleigh to the sofa.
"Whatever you gonna consume in my house, you gotta share with me."
"Oh Ma!" He hugged her and swung her around.
"Hooo ? stop! Don' do dat. I'm too old boy."
Justice set her back on her feet and, after finding something to crush on, he went to sit with Farleigh. Farleigh looked at him sideways. "Your confidential source?"
"Something like that." Justice grinned at him. Danny came and sat with them. He pinched a bit of weed and sniffed it.
"Jeez Salem. You never told me you had this. It's so fine."
"Sure. Wait till you smoke it."
"Salem was just telling me bout how slavery was abolished like a hundred n fifty years ago and even the colonials left long ago but we still all slaves to money." Danny was addressing Justice. "I mean most people aren't lucky enough to work for someone like Beth, but it's just not possible anymore to survive without tshelete."
"But it's true," said Salem. Edie had joined him with the ice-cream tub and the remains of the fruit salad thrown in. "The thing is they keep coming up with more gadgets and stuff we really don't need. That's where all the garbage in the sea is coming from. I guess I'm just as bad cos I'd hate to be without my music but I don't need a home theatre system."
"But it would be nice if you had speakers," Edie chipped in. "I mean it's really nice listening with headphones, even for both of us, hmmm, real cosy."
"Zactly. 'Sonly you that visits me anyway." He pulled her onto his lap and started eating the fruit and ice-cream.
"But surely we don't really need money," Danny proposed. This talk made him think till his brain hurt. "We could've still done all that stuff like put a rocket on the moon without ever having invented money."
"We don't really need a rocket on the moon either," commented Salem, "and it seems that maybe we never did do that either. The whole thing was just another US hoax."
"But you're right Danny. The whole money thing is like a major intellectual game invented by the romans. Here Ma." Justice had lit the spliff and passed it to Palesa. Suddenly it was like all talk stopped while they watched Palesa. She took a few tokes and passed it back to Justice.
"My boy, that was nice. It's been a long time since I had some a dat. I want you to do something for me."
"Sure Ma, anytime. What can I get you?"
"No, no. Not now. It's your brothers I'm worried about."
"Bokang and Kabelo? What are they up to now?"
"I wish I knew. That's what I want you to find out for me. They both in Jozi an whenever we speak they insist they's fine n all but when I ask them what jobs they got, they jus vague saying they jus do whatever jobs come along and that it's easy makin money in Jozi."
"Okay Ma, I get you. We all know how naughty those two can get when they start getting up to stuff. I promise I'll make a turn north-side sometime soon."
"Thanks my boy. Me, I'm feelin good n sleepy now but don feel y'all need to run away or keep the noise down. I'm gonna sleep real nice now. G'night." Palesa got up and went into the bedroom to a chorus of "Night Ma" and "Sleep tight."
Justice smoked a bit more and then passed the spliff to Danny. "The thing about money, Danny, is like how do we convince everyone that it's just a fool's paradise. It's been disguised as the real thing for too long."
"So maybe that's where the gangsta's is helping us," reckoned Salem.
"How?" Danny asked.
"Well isn't it bling was like the thing of the rich whiteys. It was like look what I can afford to drive or to buy my wife or whatever. Now it don' help to jus be able to afford it cos you would'n dare to drive it or wear it cos some tsotsi niggaboy might come n take it. So these days bling is more about 'look what I can flaunt cos nobody would dare touch me cos I run this hood'. Trouble with hip-hop is it's trapped da niggers into believin they need that bling stuff in order to be someone and they needa do crime in order to prove it. It's like it was designed to get as many niggas into jail as possible.
"Meantime more n more of us are realisin it's not worth havin valuables cos you jus gonna get mugged for it. So that fancy thing become less valuable, get it."
"You got a point. Meanwhile those that's really hooked on the roman lies have their insurance n stuff n would never be able to see the benefits of losin their worldly wealth. Problem is it's such an intricate game n the romans are using it to control what drives the human race. The whole world's money systems, stock markets, the credit market, it's all part of the game. And now they trading carbon credits to save the world!" Justice swigged at his glass, then remembered the wine was finished.
"Truth is," he stressed. "The truth is that if we took back command of our universe we would not need money at all. Money could never open the gates of paradise. Money can not command the power of the universe." He was almost shouting. Suddenly he spoke quietly. "Only love can do that. The only key is to love your universe. You have to love your life. Serious. As long as you keep loving what you do you will keep doing what you love. But you have to love it all. That's the hard part."
They all looked at him. Their faces were a bit blurred.
"Hey," said Justice trying to stand up. "I'm drunk. I needa go home."
"You're at home, boet," Edie reminded him.
"Yeah, thanks Edie. I mean I needa go to bed." He looked at Farleigh who stood up gallantly if not steadily and offerred his arm.
"Come darling, lesh go."
After a couple of false starts they managed to guide each other to the door and out.