Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Scriptures of Saint Simon

Posted by Simon Halliday | Thursday, March 23, 2006 | Category: | 0 comments

Standing 01.03.06

There is a wreath of madness on it

cutting crown of thorns deep

and allegorized down down

passed down


the scars on my forehead

the tattooed path of blood

down my neck

placed in ceremony the

wreath curls its way around my head

cutting the tendrils of sanity

separating skin and mind


the dark hours spent in

light and the half light

damaged, thrown beneath feet

The trial was held at midday

the laughter of the law

and the giggling whores

making imperceptible my

flickering eyes forcing

the recusal of my innocence

it pulled itself away it did

then claimed it was guilty

to much satisfied applause

A Passing 08.03.2006

Strange to miss

the pain instead

of missing you

to be aware of

an addiction and

to dismiss it

as to miss the

intoxication and my

vibrant self-destruction

I missed you and

pained and missed

pain and missed

my own passing

from no longer missing

to that which is gone

Heard 17.03.06

I wonder if you want me to interrogate you

to uncover events and feelings I did not

know or did not care to understand

it is a plagued existence to be unsure of

my own questioning, of whether there is

need in you to be understood, for you

to feel as though I have recovered you.

But all is not as it would be, the uncalm

me picking my way through the leaves

and sticks of the paths you've left behind

for me to follow. Here and there I see an

indication of what you want, but I remain

unsure, uncertain as to your intent and my

role. Friend I have been and always am

but you felt information would change that

which surrounded us, revelation and dawning

knowledge. But it cannot prevent the growing

closer, the tightening of old bonds better rooted

now, now that I know, now that you are free

at least so free in the knowledge that I am here

that I support you and that should there be

those who would despair, and should you lament

I know and I will hold myself up for you. You

can and must be free with me dear friend, and I

will do my best to question you, and to listen

Memoirs 18.03.06

I saw them coming from behind your teeth

that space where the mouth and incisors

hide one another, they slipped down the

side of your mouth and crawled their

way towards me, unattached to your words.

They were so nonchalant in their damage

so unforgiving in their intent, but still

I would do my best not to bow down

beneath their weight – the weight of

overwhelming histories and dreaded

forgetfulness. Because, I see you have

forgotten and that you have passed by

the past that was once present for us

in this here space, this bed, this chair

and the photos gazing on us in their

unknowing audience to all that would

follow – to conversations, crying and

moans of rapturous guilt that it had been

you and me and the destructive spiral

of shared un-knowledge. Thank you.

Embrace 18.03.06

You know that I might

hold you, that I could

be holding you tight

against my chest, bare

as it would be with its

hair against your cheek

and you listening for

the intents of my heartbeat

for they are sometimes

disinclined to communicate

themselves in the natural ways

but letting you know them

through your touching me

through your knowing me

and reading the litany of

skin, the raptures of my hair

Corralled 18.03.06

In the space that separates denial

and assent lies an area of vanished

acceptance and unuttered rejections

seeing it some have thought that

the light that shone was that of the

moon through thin clouds

others thought they felt sand beneath

their walking feet and others grass,

soil or the dustiest of stones on soles

and none of these follow some implied

conclusion, nor do they necessitate

shouted concurrence nor a sighed renege

it is difficult in the shallow light to

know or not to know, or to be certain

that uncertainty is pervasive

instead inner turmoil is calmed and

the outer emotions of befriended space

belie the temptations that stand there

Withstood 18.03.06

I do not stand well here.

The angle of the ground

does not support me

nor does the incongruity

of your speech.

There are jarring sounds

in my ears – the screeching

halting train too many people

full – moving from your

mouth and heading

towards me standing

bent-kneed and

confused and almost

knocked down by its

pressure on my skull.

But it was insufficient.

I was neither knocked

down, nor shaken. Reality

corrected itself and I was

no longer crippled in sight.

The scripted 19.03.06

I see your legend, the

mark of you branded

on me, it is a raised

mark: you burned

yourself on me and left

your scriptures on

my body, fueled and

flamed on by ignorance

the wind of mine was

pervasive blowing it

all, blustering you up

until all that was left was

the inevitability of your

implosion and how its

shrapnel would sever

any and all connections

that we shared, share

and ever could share.

I do not blame, neither

do I accuse, I accept

the raised skin on

my arms and the branded

notation of your distrust

lingering and dissonant.

'tatious 20.03.06

Are we callous that we

engage in these fruitless

games? This hopscotch

of juvenile words and

glances – intimation.

Brush my hands closer.

Say my words smoother.

The flirting of it, the

wordless tension that

tightens its fickle grasp

to emancipate us, bring

me nearer, distance you.

Confining in human space.

Defining in rhythmic pace.

Her lips curl back in an

attempt to avoid smiling

but I catch their misstep

and laugh to myself, glad

I could witness satisfaction.

Natural intimacy 21.03.06

The wind flirts its way beneath

the denim of my jeans an

unembarrassed lover exposing

me to her openness

luring me into her cold

yet her hands so easily release

their grip leaving me

unsatisfied but still gracious for their

momentary engagement for

a chance at natural intimacy

shivering I close my jacket around

me wondering on loves lost

and the allure of cold liaisons

tightening my skin, exciting me

but leaving me less warm

When we are burning 22.03.06

when we are burning bright

and hard in the summer's light

that is when you arrest

me, that is when you

capture the flaming fields

of my lips and douse

them quickly and smoothly

with your irreverent touches

and left so grounded and

so flushed with the colours

of flame and water and

steam I clench my fists

my lips and my eyes

tightly, tightly, tightly lit

they are and burning still in

the waters of your mind

Autumn Hymn 23.03.06

The jacaranda sheds it

wilted flowers in a serenade

to the morning wind

the dancing lilac of it

overwhelming my sensitive


I see our children feet

here, smaller and

catching on the brickwork

our chasing-games in

the cacophony of falling

leaves and a shower of purple flowers

we are neither running nor

barefoot any more, my

feet are closed off and

invulnerable to the vividness

of crushed flowers underfoot

the crinkling of soft histories

lost child moments in the

chaos of falling flowers

Cool Announcement

Posted by Simon Halliday | | Category: | 0 comments

My sister, Vanessa, just got a lead part in a new South African film. I don't know what it's called, except that it's a comedy about The Comrades Marathon and she is playing a star Russian runner. Thankfully I can't give away any of the storyline. What I do know is that it is going to be premiering in December for the Christmas season. SO COOL!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Rambling about guilt

Posted by Simon Halliday | Friday, March 03, 2006 | Category: | 4 comments

Why guilt? 01.03.06

This is a much discussed subject, but I wonder about the role of guilt. Guilt in itself is an emotional response to an action that one has taken.1 In this way one feels remorse, sadness, culpability of some sort. It is furthermore possible that one needs to seek redemption in some fashion, some action that will negate the previous action. By negation I mean that it will take the previous action and try to reverse the emotion that one feels for it. For example if I have done something wrong, such as causing an accident, I may seek redemption or, I suppose, emotional deliverance for my negligence or my purposeful wrongdoing by remunerating the person monetarily, apologising, or going out of my way to do whatever is possible to see that that person has adequate care (on the assumption that my actions injured them in some way).

Notwithstanding all of this humanity through the experience of guilt, the question I want to ask is why is guilt so pervasive. Why do we feel it so regularly and possibly for actions that do not cause the repercussions that we think they may. Because of theories of mind that we have, we conjecture as to what others may be feeling. We impute emotional reactions to that which we have done. This imputation results in us feeling guilt, feeling bad, feeling generally as though we have caused some hurt which may be irreparable.

The problem for me is this, on a personal level do I experience guilt in the same way that others do? If I realise that I am 'guilty' of some action, should I feel perpetually sad because of having taken that action, or should I feel the guilt, recognise its momentary worth, take what I believe is redemptive action and then move on? Or should I wallow in the experience of the guilt and not move on to forgiveness? The problem with guilt is that one both has to seek forgiveness from someone else, as well as seeking to forgive oneself. I think the argument as to which is harder depends on the people involved. However, I centrally and personally believe that the latter (self-forgiveness) is more important in order for one to move onwards emotionally and actively.

The question is whether the experience of guilt actually results in resolution, or whether our feeling and indulging in it can invalidate any future interactions because of our inactivity which is as a result of our wallowing in guilt. It is further not to use metaphors that include water as a medium of understanding. Why do we feel that a water or mud-like metaphor is apt? Is it because of the idea of one floating if there is no guilt but sinking if there is? If guilt results in us being in a possibly better situation that we originally – through our penitence – then surely it shouldn't use metaphors of sinking, but rather of further upliftment! Or rather, it shouldn't use metaphors of water at all. Personally, I seem to be at a stage where I dislike the idea of everything being either up or down. The concept of a specific vertical continuum applied to emotional contexts seems, to me, to be inherently flawed. My experiences of emotions (including what I perceive as guilt) are not necessarily up or down, high or low, they encompass a landscape of emotions that do not necessarily attach to an up-down direction.

Even so, another concept which needs to be considered is the relationship between remorse and guilt. If I feel guilty for something, does that mean I should regret what I did? Should I feel remorseful? Again speaking from a personal standpoint, in certain specific contexts even when I have subsequently felt guilt for having taken a specific path of action, I subsequently realised that I would most likely had I been able to go back and choose again, I would have made the same choices and simply suffer the guilt. The existence and experience of my guilt does not necessarily imply that i should want to go back and change what I did. It does not imply that I should regret my actions. I could have learned something valuable which I would not have learned otherwise, I could have experienced or understood something which would not have been revealed to me had I not taken that course of action. Again this links to remorse. Should I feel remorseful if I feel guilt and should I wish (in hindsight) that I could remove that action, that if I could edit history, I would delete that action from my personal history. I don't necessarily think so.

An additional problem is the link that exists between guilt and memory. If I am guilty of some action, for which I then forgive myself or for which I am forgiven by another, is it possible that that forgiveness could be revoked. Can I take away forgiveness once it has been given? In a simple two person relationship does this mean that if I did something wrong for which my friend forgave me, can they subsequently say that they actually revoke their prior forgiveness and that they wish for me to feel more remorseful, or to act in a way that is more penitent or to act in such a way that they feel as though I am more penitent than previously? If this is the case then guilt (although it is never itself erased) can be forgiven, but lives in a limbo in which this forgiveness can be taken away and the guilt experienced even more. This is why I believe that the idiom 'Forgive and Forget' is apt – there is a significant relationship between memory and forgiveness and hence between memory and the experience of guilt. I will feel guilt as long as I remember a specific action that I have taken which warranted my experiencing guilt. If I can no longer remember that I have performed an act for which I should feel guilt, should i still feel guilty? Is it really contingent on others not remembering? In which case for true forgiveness, i.e., ignorance of guilt, both me and others must forget what I or they did. This in itself plays havoc with the concept of history. People claim that they have forgiven actions against them by others, but if it is continually being recorded is that really the case?

I conjure a hypothetical here: if we took two random children one that we told was 'Jewish' (although that wasn't necessarily true) and another that we told was 'Aryan' (of Germanic descent) and then gave them history books and the ability to read them, would they act in ways which we believe would be consistent with forgiveness (assuming that Jewish people have forgiven German people for the Holocaust, or more locally that Black African people have forgiven White African people for Apartheid or colonial domination)? Or, conversely, would the fact that it had been recorded and read result in actions by either individual which would make them act in such a way that made the 'Aryan' feel guilt(y) and the 'Jewish' individual feel victimised? I don't know. I really have no idea, I just wonder what this kind of experiment would produce. It is entirely unfeasible, but it is interesting as a personal thought experiment. On a personal level do we actually forgive people for what they have done, or do we rehash it with ourselves, blame them for certain things, claim that they are responsible for how we are now. At what point can we claim that we actually did not forgive them, or at which point is forgiveness simply superficial? Again I don't know, it's just something that I am thinking about.

Anyway, these are some of the thoughts running through my tired brain. I'll slap them on my blog soon and you can have a rant and a rave at me for my strange late night contemplations if you are so inclined.


1Or possibly some action that one has not done, in which case the 'action' is inaction.