Another Side of Mike Golby -
The Interview, Part Five
This is an “interview” in the loosest sense of the word. I asked Mike Golby to share his insights in five areas. He has done so and the album cover art below provides links to the separate pieces of this interview…
Only rarely do I encounter a person who really speaks my language, a person whose clarity and depth of experience make me stand in awe of his or her abilities. Survival is at the foundation, but it’s a random chance. The world could have lost Mike Golby and never known his brilliant wit nor shared his wisdom. Creativity is built on that foundation and that’s another random chance. Creativity is a gift and Golby has been given it. How he has shaped his creativity, how he shares it with the world is a choice. I am proud that he consented to share these profound insights through the vehicle of this Web Log. Thank you Mike.
So for my last question, I asked Mike Golby: “What challenges must be overcome to assure our children, the world’s children, a peaceful and healthy future?”
And he replied:
“People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered -
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives –
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies –
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight –
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous -
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow -
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough -
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God -
It was never between you and them anyway.”
[Attributed to Mother Theresa]
Ah, yes, running out of words… even in this medium, space is a problem, both physically and philosophically. But it is not a problem in the same league as that which we face on our increasingly small planet. I’ve forgotten the exact figure but, about three weeks ago, I was around at a friend’s place and he slipped a documentary on the twentieth century into his video machine.
I don’t recall much of the video [even why he put the damned thing on] but I do remember being brought up short by a statistic to the effect that, in the one hundred years between 1901 and 2023, the world’s population increased from about 1.5 billion to 6 billion. That staggered me.
No wonder my nerves are shot to ribbons of road rage and anger at my daily closure in a prefabricated box reaching for the smog-laden sky. There’s no fucking space, I’ve people crawling all over me, and the noise and fumes from the street [seeping through the air conditioner] are driving me insane.
Yep, the Johannesburg summit. Is this Rio III or Kyoto II? Will George tell us to shove it? I don’t know. Does it matter? Again, I don’t know but I’m willing hazard a couple of guesses. Frank, my short answer to your question is to leave the planet to King George and his ilk and kill off people like me. It’ll probably happen anyway. Yet, as an answer, it doesn’t suffice.
Why? You might well ask, you scurrilous, lowdown dog, you. Yes, Mr. Paynter, the man I’ve been trying to wriggle into my Blogtree Pedigree as a parent but have yet to work out the bloody gizmo’s structure, I know exactly what you’re up to. If there’s anybody left reading this, let me fill you in on the scheming and devious mind of our word wizard from Wisconsin. Deluged by a sea of verbiage from yours truly, our Frank has been pushing the outside of the envelope encasing his mind, wondering “How the hell do I shut this bastard up? I need a real blinder or he’ll have my blog and I’ll be laughed off the Web forever.”
It does not take a conspiracy theorist to work out this obvious and simple truth, but you are a master of your craft, Frank. On any radio or TV show, the politician’s immediate response to this question would be, “That’s a very good question”, and he or she would then proceed to waffle as I’m doing now before punting his party [read my blog at
<http://pagecount.blogspot.com>] and going home. The interviewer smiles smugly, draws his hand across his throat, and says to his crew, “That’s a wrap.” Or something like that.
[The above, of course, is not true. It is merely waffle designed to fill the yawning gap I find filling my mind on considering your question.]
Let me tell you why there’s a gap. There are two answers, one posing [for people like us] as the answer to the world’s problems and another [for people like Glenn Reynolds and Dick Cheney and scrape-kneed schoolboys all over the world] that also poses as the answer. I’m not going to shuffle treaties and accords here, argue the case for Greenpeace, Amnesty, or your sterling work in fighting for peace, Frank, or slam the vile and evil minions of dark forces currently turning our planet into a cesspit incapable of sustaining any life but cockroaches like them.
Let me put forward a concept. My family, a relatively wealthy, middle-class outfit comprising a mix of professionals and misfits geared for a life of work, retirement, ossification, and death, has some extremely wealthy friends. A couple I know and regard as family [Uli was MC at Wendy and my wedding, providing the requisite outsized Mercedes for the ride] have fallen on rough times. They have raised two daughters in wealth and opulence and owned a magnificent ‘house’ in Cape Town’s mink and manure belt and another up the east coast in a highly sought after resort town.
Uli tied up a lot of his money in an outfit selling satellite-signalling security systems for motor vehicles. He did so when white business went on the rampage post-1994. Being an honest guy, he didn’t realize what a bunch of hoods he was getting into bed with and saw most of his money fritter away over two years. He got out when he could but, being in his late fifties, he’s not exactly the most desirable candidate for a job. As a chartered accountant who has taken several businesses to obscene wealth, he falls into the CFO bracket. We don’t need them. Anybody can stuff his or her hands in the till.
To my overly wealthy friends, I’m a nice guy who never amounted to anything. “Married too young.” “He should have studied law. Even an academic would have been better than what he’s now doing. What is he doing?” “Well, why doesn’t he just start something and make some money from it?” I can imagine comments of that sort emanating from the plush splendor of Bishopscourt and Constantia. To these people, I am ‘cash poor’ and cannot therefore be very happy with my lot. This attitude is a creeping social cancer that poisons our minds most subtly and insidiously.
When I was covering live music, I frequented clubs most freelancers wouldn’t touch. One of them, Club Montreal, was great club in a low-income area called Manenberg. Yes, the same Manenberg that inspired Basil Coetzee and Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) to rip off a piece of African music and write Cape Town’s unofficial anthem. For the average person living there, gangsters, druglords, and criminals of every kind known to man are a massive problem. they outnumber law-abiding citizens by about ten to one. It’s not a problem for the police. They just collect the bodies in the morning.
As a kid, I was a frequent visitor to suburbs my color precluded me from visiting so I have no fear of the townships. People are living there. It’s wise to be careful though and the people running Club Montreal were. Guards, dogs, guns, knives, clubs [baseball], and enclosed parking ensured a good evening’s jazz in a venue redolent of a fifties jazz club in New York. Afterwards, the guys outside would report any drive-by shooters, nearby incidents and the like, and plan the wisest route home. The club was a block or two from the main road but they took their jobs seriously.
I used to wonder how people could be happy living there. No money, no houses [stinking tenements ranked side by side, lit by high-rise lights at night, separated by dark stretches of sand, the shadows in which the gangsters went about their work], and no hope of work. Locked doors are no problem for gangsters. If they ‘wanted’ a woman they’d break into an apartment and take one, use her, and do whatever they wanted to do with the evidence. I recall a disgusting incident wherein a retarded man was decapitated and his head taken to a gang leader’s house in a bucket to serve as a ‘warning’. The headline the next day read “Decapitated man mentally impaired.” Call it Cape Town humor.
Many people in Manenberg took to whining about their lot, especially after the city council took some three years to repair damage visited on the place by a tornado. My feelings were, “For God’s sake, if you don’t like it there, just move across the main road into Heideveld or go the other way and move to Guguletu.” A good friend of mine lives in Guguletu. He has what probably constitutes one of the best jazz collections in the city. When I used to visit him on a regularly [he had me set up his CV and promotional material but I've seen little of him as he's become more fully booked], I called his sitting room ‘the soul clinic’.
With regard to the sorry people of Manenberg, my thinking was of the same type that made my wealthy friends decide I could not be very happy. In other words, my attitude stank. My youth, political work, and covering jazz taught me something. Happiness has nothing whatsoever to do with situations over which you have little control and a great deal to do with your approach to that which you have. I’ve met happy, well-adjusted, optimistic people from every corner of this previously divided city and as many bitter and twisted shitheads.
Given a Western lifestyle, with all the trappings of our vicarious genius in diverse fields, technology, medicine, building, services delivery, defense, etc., we lose sight of some fundamental truths. Much like substance abusers, we become addicted to our material comforts and, as I’ve seen with my friends, who’ve sold their large homestead in Constantia and moved into one of the biggest apartments in the ‘better’ part of our neighborhood, lowering our standard of living is like giving up alcohol, one drink each day. It seems that material wealth comes at a huge cost and most of us fail to realize that the price extends far beyond the tag or the monthly payments.
The Western world is like an anxiety freak threatened with the loss of his or her stock of Valium. It’s apparent to those of us living out here in the Third World. There’s a desperation to consolidate wealth at any cost. George Bush’s recent acquisition in the energy industry, Afghanistan, and his next foray into securing energy interests, Iraq, are less apparent signs of that desperation. Enron, Harken and other companies are more obvious signs and they are closer to home.
[I'm not preaching here, eh, I live as a so-called 'Westerner'.]
How do we satisfy our anxieties best? We project our needs onto others. If we look at the globe, this vast, intricate, living, breathing sphere of which we form but a single component [covering the surface like a sun-fried cerebral cortex], there is enough – at present – for everybody. Enough food, water, shelter, means of production and sustaining production, etc. But we want most of it for ourselves and our projection leads us to believe in scarcity because we feel we should foist our waste-producing lifestyles on 5.5 billion other people. Can’t be done. American citizens produce nine times more waste than people living in the Third World. If we continue aiming to deliver health and wealth [and democracy] to the rest of the world, we are going to fuck up sooner than is necessary. Because we’re selfish and indulge in a neurotic projection.
Technology’s a problem, Frank. We’re screwing up fast. It’s great that we can swap ideas like this but, for God’s sake, let’s keep it out of the hands of the great unwashed. Can you imagine what we’d do to the globe setting up the infrastructure necessary to give everybody their own PC and Net connection? Not only is the equitable sharing of health and wealth a naive, misguided dream; it’s downright dangerous. I use the Net as an example of technology for one reason only. It epitomises the way we infect the world with our reasoning and misguided perceptions of what we need to live full lives. Living a simple life did not preclude Christ realizing self-actualization. Maslow would have been proud of him. I’ve not read all of Jung’s work but he must have, at some stage, used him as an example of an individuated being. A carpenter-cum-fisherman-cum-politician-cum-teacher-cum-savior.
How many war bloggers would even live in Israel? It’s tough country, especially without air-conditioning. We look up to the Ghandis and the Mandelas and the Nyereres and the Mother Theresas but we seldom look ‘at’ them. Simple people eschewing clutter. Most poor people have a far greater appreciation of life and our role in the grand scheme of things than we do with our intellect and reasoning. Look at the clutter on Everest. The mess at the South Pole [there was a mushy hole at the North Pole this year]. Most living in the shadow of Everest revere it. I revere my local mountain [it means I don't have to climb the damned thing]. Most ‘poor’ people are a damned side more clued and in tune with their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs than we Westerners.
While we are fucking up this planet on a scale not seen since that rock hit Guatemala, I believe it will survive us. Given our inextricable link to the earth of which we are a part, I reckon we’ll make it too, whatever happens. One of my father’s dictums was “The worst thing our ancestors could have done was set sail in ships.” Europeans killed some 100 million native Americans [north and south] through the spread of their syphilitic lifestyle to that part of the world. Where the end times happened for the Jews with the trashing of the Temple in AD 70 [I'm open to correction] by a bunch of lowrent surrogates of Rome, I guess colonization must have been the native American’s Apocalypse. We have our own. Why share it?
My father would follow his dictum with a contemptuous, Dylan-esque sneer; “Missionary zeal, hah!” As a pathologist, he knew something of medicine. While he was grateful that antibiotics were around to save his life the third time he contracted tuberculosis, he was under no illusions about the damage it was causing the world and its people. There is a great deal of money to be made in viral research, Frank. Keep it under your hat. Send me a fat check and I will invest it wisely. We will make a great deal of money and live high on the hog for the rest of our lives. The future lies in viruses. They’re going to kill billions.
Our problem or, rather, my problem is that I fight the natural order of things. Entropy was a good idea. That’s why its currency is still good. I fight entropy, as do most things. However, intelligent, sentient being that I am, I do not know when to let a good thing go. One of my problems, throughout my life and my alcoholism, was my determination to see the world run according to Mike, a privileged, moralistic little fucker who didn’t have a clue [on the one hand]. I learnt the hard way that it wasn’t going to happen. But my realization that we will fuck up gloriously again and again did not disillusion me. I can learn. Dying people need love and care. Hurting people need others who’ve been there and survived. Survivors of disasters need shelter and hope. Victims of atrocities need love, empathy, and caring while they recover as best they can. Old people need to know that they matter.
Another of my old man’s dictums: “Too much information, too little knowledge, and buggerall wisdom. Heh!” I mentioned in my last post to you that I hated my parents when I was an adolescent. That appears to be the natural order of things. It allows us to separate and become ourselves. I returned to find that my father was my best friend, sharing a similar outlook on life. I reckon he had a measure of wisdom and if I can attain half his insight into himself, I’ll count myself lucky.
Yet, what is the wise response to the snippet of information that tells us, in accordance with Sharia law, 30-year old Nigerian Amina Lawal will finish breastfeeding her baby in June 2023, when it will be taken away from her and she will be stoned to death for having had sex outside of marriage? Our information technology is giving us a great deal, including live pictures of collapsing skyscrapers and people crying tearlessly as they endure the last stages of a hunger that makes them seek death. What do we do? Send a check to the World Food Program or Medicines Sans Frontieres? We’re being bombarded with problems that have beset us since the beginning of time. Not too long ago, we did not know of such things. And then came Biafra. And Bangladesh. And soon, pushing every misfortune known to man [who used to regard it as a problem to be dealt with or a part of living] came the great Satan of Atlanta, CNN.
Were it not for the Dick and George Virtual Reality Show, you’d be watching southern Africans dying of hunger today and tomorrow. Next month, you’d be watching somewhere else while floods drown thousands; earthquakes rip the world from under the feet of countries; volcanoes spew ash and flaming boulders onto sleeping cities; planes, ferries, shuttles, ships, and buildings full of people go down; war and peace break out; diseases and vaccines come into being or fade to memory. You’d be following the story of Elian Gonzales, or checking up on how the Guatemalan twins are doing, or wondering whether a highly paid actor with a penchant for racing cars is going to become another what’s-his-name, Superman – ah, yeah, Christopher Reeve.
We need to follow the information trail because it gives our lives meaning. We learn that my wealthy friends have perhaps far greater difficulty finding a lasting happiness than those countless wonderful people I’ve known living [and dying] in conditions far different to those in which I live. But we need to keep our bearings or we lose sight of ourselves and our kids. Only I see the world through my eyes. Everybody else has a different but equally valid perspective. And so it is with our kids. They share the house with us, cause us endless hassles, bust the bank, give us gray hairs, are geniuses or are misunderstood, are good or bad, caring or selfish. They are, of course, all going to change the world for the better. They are these things because we love them. We cannot lose sight of the importance of that because, besides those charged with accomplishing other tasks in life, why else would we be fortunate enough to have them?
Given the limitations of a family life, we do what we can, Frank. Did I drive my car to work today? Yeah, well… Okay, but I won’t beat myself up about it. Look at the countless millions who shared the roads with me. Did I slag the Bush administration for continuing its cynical campaign to tie up futures in the oil market while the poppy fields flourish again under an Afghan sky and countless thousands stand to die? Yeah… but that was fun. Well, as far as I’m concerned, being human should be fun. I don’t believe we’re here to suffer. And besides, King George is but a symbol to me. He is no man. He is Bob Mugabe kicking commercial farmers off their land and millions into starvation. He is Thabo Mbeki pursuing a ludicrous AIDS policy visiting an unimaginably ghastly death on millions of South Africans. He is Ariel Sharon, pursuing the obliteration of the Palestinian people with whom he refuses to accept as his neighbors. He is Slobodan Milosovic and Jonas Savimbi and Laurent Kabila and Idi Amin and Stalin and Hitler. George W. Bush is a nebbish, a nobody symbolizing that which I despise in those wielding power uncaringly and irresponsibly.
Whether it’s child abuse, malnutrition, AIDS, war, trauma, fear, illness, environmental degradation, political structures, megalomania, global threats, imagined fears or lost causes, we suckers fighting entropy and the way things have been for aeons are on to a hiding to nothing. But, fuck, it’s great to be alive, eh?
Ultimately, we get to the question, “What challenges must be overcome to assure our children, the world’s children, a peaceful and healthy future?” Okay, I see. As the question draws closer to home, it becomes a missile, a warhead. In looking at the future of our kids, I forget that so many of them are casualties right now. I’m a lucky parent, Frank. But Wendy and I, as you know, have seen a lot of ugly stuff. Wendy’s recent stay in a rehab in the Karoo comes to mind like a tracer bullet through the heart of a darkness that is fundamentally evil. There are many things that really piss me off about us as parents. I am sick and tired of watching dime-a-dozen platinum blonde socialites posing as worried parents on TV, publicly decrying the practices of their hitherto anonymous kids as the misguided actions of demented loons led astray by wicked and conniving drug peddlers.
I have seen and spoken to their kids and I know that most of those chasing dragons and batting rocks and spiking it up between their toes will not live out their twenties. And it makes me fucking angry because it’s so avoidable. Ninety-five percent of the wasted freaks that are our children have become that way because they choose to be that way. Looking back at an earlier question, I have to say that, yes, I chose to drink and drug rather face a loveless, functional world I feared in every fiber of my being. These kids work extremely hard, with what appears to be a missionary zeal, to get into their terrible conditions and to stay that way. I did. The loneliness of the long-distance drinker is a terrible sight to behold. The alternative, respectability as defined and proscribed by the addled society into which our kids are born and are told they are a part of, takes the shape of a mind-numbing, passion-sapping, nine-to-five psychosis, is an alternative too ugly to contemplate.
That the kids I have met have been sprung from the sanitized loins of artificial people must be more than enough to send them over the edge. How can he or she contend with blinkered, unseeing eyes that see evil in all about them. The rehab at which Wendy spent three months with these kids ran a “Christian-based” program, paying lip service to AA and NA’s twelve-step program. Many of the parents I met are good, Christian folk in the cornflake tradition. Evil, for them, is neatly packaged and labeled and stacked on the supermarket shelves of their useless lives. It is an empty evil that they hear about and they read about in their boardroom churches with tiered cinema seats and three-piece pastors. It is an evil that is always without and never within. Their projection is absolute. And it is the same projection the Western world uses to justify inflicting its destructive ‘needs’ onto 5.5 billion other people.
Does it not ever strike those meddling in the minds of the young that it is they, the people with the disposable mind-sets, the born-again, quick-fix, throwaway moralities who might well be the ones sowing the seeds of self-destruction in the minds of the kids they don’t know how to love? Is it not possible that the get-rich-quick attitude they impose on all and sundry [I am not the only one judged by the wealthy] while denying their absolute enslavement to excess [yes, they are substance abusers] smacks of an hypocrisy so odious their kids are driven to anger, hatred, and despair?
They are two-dimensional, shallow, and completely out of touch. And they are perhaps worse off than their kids, the lost junkies who provide them an outlet for the guilt which builds up to pressure-cooker proportions as it’s repressed so far from consciousness they have as much idea about what’s going on inside their heads as a junkie who’s swallowed a truckload of acid?
Their pathetic, pitiful, and puerile pronouncements are the fish-like mouthings of the dazed and confused. They don’t know what is going on. They don’t know why their kids take drugs. They don’t have any of the answers. And the reason is simple. They don’t know how they fucked up. They have no comprehension of their own fears and phobias, their hang-ups, and their neuroses They’ve lost touch with their souls, sold them to the devil of material security and their designer brand of social responsibility. They’ve lost sight of who and what they are and they cannot presume to see the way for others. Their kids [some of whom, no doubt, will become as productively useless as their parents when they can be taught it's better to shut yourself up in the fanciful castle of a Disney-mind than face reality] see, for now, what a fucking mess we’re in and it scares them shitless.
Somehow, yes, far closer to home, both the parents and kids who’ve skidded off the road of a meaningful life need our love and care. They need those of us who’ve who’ve been there and survived. They need shelter and hope, love, empathy, and caring while they recover as best they can. Not only old people need to know that they matter.
Rant over, I don’t blame the limping, soul-sick casualties of our twisted ways at all. I reckon we need to change our attitudes, do what we can to clean up the mess we’ve exacerbated, and leave the future to those of our kids that survive. Living one life is more than enough. We cannot proscribe the lives of others but we can be there for them. Where my kids go wrong, I am responsible [not for their actions, but for my response to those actions]. I am the greatest obstacle to my kids living their lives to the full. I have in me that which I see in George Bush. I am the obdurate war blogger denying my kids reasoned debate when they feel too ill to go to school. And I am something that I can do something about. None of my kids have ended up junkies yet, and I hope to God they never do.
If my three survive me, and I believe they will, they will know peace and health. They’ll also know war and illness, happiness and misery, ecstasy and despair, sorrow, joy and every human feeling. I just hope they enjoy it as much as I do.
Think of it, Frank. Those who went through the ‘flu epidemic in Europe at the beginning of the last century are dead today. Those who fought at Gallipoli and Ypres and countless battlefields stripped of all life by bombardments we will never see are all dead today. The millions who carried their hopes and aspirations into a new country, freed of British domination in 1776 [I think], are dead today. I hesitate to say “I see dead people” but the world is full of ghosts. We give them scarcely a thought. I hope we are more fortunate. I trust our kids will give an occasional nod to what we were able to give them. I hope they then get on living their lives in a world in which we are but members of that same legion of ghosts that gave us a world in which we could become ourselves. I hope they remember us fondly, with love, and come to know peace and health. They will if we give them [and those parents who continue denying the world about them] the love they need to appreciate these things.
In the end, I think that although we overcome these things alone, we do so together as well. Yep, that Mother Theresa, she knew what she was talking about. The future starts and ends with each and every one of us.