I know not everybody likes a letter, and when I think about it, you two surely don’t spend a lot of time reading either — but I love a letter, so here goes:

Nobody can say that you two haven’t had your fun. You’ve shown your faces at some of the greatest and lowest moments in our history. People have swished you around their mouths, enjoying your taste and the comforting buzz they brought once swallowed. They’ve got drunk on you and trashed the place, they’ve murdered, they’ve fought, they’ve elbowed each other in the ribs and had a giggle on you. They’ve become resolved, they’ve firmed up their jaws and they’ve marched to your sounds.

Some have kept you locked up inside them, allowing you to become dark festering spots on their minds. Others have been overcome by your taste and spat you out onto bystanders who weren’t even aware that you were nearby. You have moved and moulded people — you have both been the star and the condemned, and you’ve probably never shared fans.

Well, we’ve been thinking (for a change), and we’ve decided that maybe it’s time you two moved in together, and found a place where you both belong. It may sound crazy, but you have lot more in common than you think. You will have lots to talk about, and before you know it, we may hear the pitter-patter of little feet (I would make a joke here about what on earth the children would look like — but let’s leave that for the old, frightened bigots, shall we?)

There seems to have been a time when you guys had places among us, but history plays a very firm game of musical chairs, and your seats are gone. We’re all about bums on seats, you know …

See, we have this really thoughtful set of rules that was put together by some of the best people we could find, and while they may not be around forever, we have these men and women who have been tasked to remain calm and explain the rules when we forget. Well, that’s the idea …

The problem isn’t the rules, though. The problem is “we” — we love the rules when they suit “us”, but when they don’t — boy do we lose it. (Sorry to use the word “boy” — I know it hurts you, “K” word — but that was never the intention, oh, generic God, here we go again … )

You know, “K” word — I read a comment on my last letter from a lady called Lyndall who said it should be fine to use you, because you were Arabic, and you meant something innocent, and anyway, if “other” people could use the “K” the boer song, what was the problem?

Somebody once said you could judge the quality of a man by the company he kept — all I can say for you is that it is not looking good, “K”. This lady is so busy trying to justify hate speech that she has lost sight of just how lucky she has been to see the changes she has. Oh, dear, she may have already bred …

And as for you. Mr “K the boer” — you tsotsi …

Unfortunately, the people who protect you had a hand in formulating the rules, and they need to realise that where you once had a very real and clear purpose, you are now in direct conflict with the rules. The rules say that all citizens are equally entitled to enjoy freedom of thought, belief, opinion and religion (should they so wish to practice or enjoy any of the above.) This is, of course, on the proviso that in so exercising that freedom — they undertake to avoid:

• Propaganda for war.
• Inciting (encouraging) people to use violence.
• Hate speech*

*Hate speech means spreading hatred and encouraging people to act violently or harmfully towards other people because of their race, gender, ethnic origin or religion. In other words, hate speech encourages people to discriminate against other people.

I know what hate speech is, because I was found guilty of using it, when I used the word “bullet” too near the word “Hindu” in a joke — imagine how bad you must look in that light … or will the hue of the user determine the level of malice?

Now, to some people, banishing your lyrics is an infringement of their freedom to express their “cultural values”. But you score two out of three bull’s eyes on the rules above … so sadly, the children of your makers have just scored an own goal, right in your goolies …

Well, excellent — another reason to have a fight, which we love. Some people will huff into their lattes and others will hurl rocks through shop windows. At the end of the day, time and energy we could put into nation-building is wasted on you two.

There is a reason that our Bill of Rights lists the Right to Life at number 11, just after the Right to Dignity — and lists rights regarding language and culture at number 30.

While life and dignity are biggies, as I’m sure you words will agree, culture is not necessarily as important to everyone as the quality of their next breath.

I don’t give a damn what the dead people who led to me liked or did. They are carbon. To my mind, killing or dying over the wishes of a pile of dust is not only ludicrous, but it is also no way to lead my children forward. It is a barbaric and stupid way to venture into the future. At best, old people invented the past. We inherited their codes, and we continue their evolution, which is why children can handle gadgets before we know how to open the box.

Could it be that we love the edifice of tradition as another way of denying the egotistical horror that we are brilliant but temporary extensions of nature — genetic fireworks in love with our own colours? We glorify our past in order to defy death, as secretly we hate the future, that wonderland we will never see?

Of course, that is just my opinion, as a tattooed, awfully foul-mouthed and disgruntled vegetarian — and I am welcome to it, as you are to yours.

In the words of the celebrated inebriate and comic Doug Stanhope: “Tradition is dead people’s baggage — why would you possibly carry it?”

If people choose to believe that there is a man in the sky who grants wishes, or that their dead uncles’ unreasonable demands must be met — that is all good and well, but it can never take precedence, under this Constitution, over the rights of those currently living.

I don’t believe there is a small, purple man under my bed, with his supernatural penis slung over one shoulder, waiting for a family member’s feet to touch the ground so he can pounce. But — having consumed huge quantities of psilocybin in my wilder days — and seen the things I have, I am prepared to allow someone else to take the above as gospel — in a way that has no impact on my rights to go about my day, of course. It is a deceptively simple and beautiful system, but it needs to be tried before it can work.

I realise that maybe Judge Lamont may have come across as overly emotive in his judgment. Perhaps his passionate attack on the song was imprudent, given the present climate, his race, and the politically charged undercurrents swirling at this time, but who can blame a man of the law for defending a document that holds every single person in our nation in such high esteem?

The judge may have made an imperfect summation of his legal findings, but we must agree as a society that “Kill” is every inch a “K” word, and we would be foolish to let it slip into our consciousness carelessly.

Why don’t we apply logic to what Judge Lamont said, and understand his finding as not just about those particular words, but to all words that invite harm, no matter who says them or why?

Where has this insistence on culture got us? Surely the relevant components of a culture live on in her people? If you need the enforcement of your culture on other people by a court, how strong or clever was it in the first place (a question we should all ask religious folks who ram their spiel down your throat … )?

Why not draw a line in the sand, and say, the future is more important than the past, as we cannot heal the wounds of those who are already dead, we cannot undo what was done, no matter who cruel, how evil or how unjust. That is not to say that we should forget, not at all, we never can, because our pasts are all woven into us, we are indivisible from them. We can certainly address the injustices of the past, wherever possible, and without infringing the rights of the living.

Our actions are all subconscious extensions of our past, collective and otherwise, and so we never betray a culture by leaving parts of it behind. Don’t we pay tribute to a culture by doing all we can to ensure its people live a better life?

Perhaps we are so in thrall to our cultures that we trade life-quality for it?

Anyway, you two — we should not allow you to walk any further with us. We should part ways here. You go hand in hand, off into the past, where you were happiest, and raise yourself some small words, hopefully with less venom in their veins, and we will continue on our imperfect, but surely better way towards whatever we will find when we get there.


  • You can follow John on Twitter if you like @fortyshort. John Vlismas is an increasingly reclusive former hell-raising coke fiend and fall-down drunk. Now a scuba teacher and far better father; he is an award-winning anti-socialite, has played The Royal Albert Hall and has been described as "blunt" but also as "sharp". He has little regard for team sports and his name is very often mispronounced. He is also the co-owner of a company called "Whacked", which does good things for local comedy.


John Vlismas

You can follow John on Twitter if you like @fortyshort. John Vlismas is an increasingly reclusive former hell-raising coke fiend and fall-down drunk. Now a scuba teacher and far better father; he is...

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