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, May 25, 2006

Some Recently Developing Ideas

Posted by Simon Halliday | Thursday, May 25, 2006 | Category: | 0 comments

harmonics 12.05.06

glancing at the sky

i see a star damaged

by the light around me

hemmed in the controlled

dispersion of our

electric lives

and I am humming an

awkward tune turning it

into a whistle

tuning into and out of

what makes the star

real in this moment

that i am watching it

seeing it and enjoying it's

damaged harmony with mine

Moving photos 14.05.06

I have photos of you

put up on the walls of

my room, slowly their

prestick-strength has

failed them and they have

peeled off, a corner at

a time normally. But

there are two of you,

black and white,

bleached sand, the curve

towards a breast as you

lie there, and these

neither peeled nor

took their time, they

simply fell. I don't want

to put them back in their

customary places, we

are no longer suited

to them being there,

nor am I sure if they should

be up any longer, grey

beaches of times when

you weren't away and

neither of us waiting

for the other to change,

for the other to stay.

Awoken dream 19.05.06


Trembling child of my thoughts

do not cower

you are neither hungry

nor thirsty



why do you cry?

I see neither wounds

nor scars on your

pale body, you



Yet there is a hand

and a pointing finger

that draws in

the sand of these


these predicted



these finger sketches

made in the sands

become golem-alive

the barefoot walking

water carrying mothers

of my mind's eye

hungry fingers scratching

in the sand meals they make

held earthenware strong

the strength of these clay fingers

is borne in their daily

water-bearing, water dreaming


without water, arid in

the African sun, the potter-

creators are weak and dry:

their makings cracking in

the heat, breaking in the

drought of it and once more

fading, the earth swallows

them and what was once blood

nourishes the parched land

sweet land that birthed

these golem dreams that

showed me the water-clay

children, hungry as they

were, but brought back

and dreamed at me, brought

forth, tied to me, and I, having

collected their sun-scattered

remains, wonder whether

I could have held back

the heat that so culled them.

I regret that I did not intervene,

that I watched in silence,

and bore witness to their shattering,

their last out breath.

Restoration 21.05.06

All it took was

some words, the

way you shook

your hair and a


from that I took


and there I had been

cowering in the

fear that the rest

that any more would

simply be shadows

you present me with


Interest 21.05.06

To batter against

what were the barriers

I had set up

to know that I

had erected these

structures, but be

unaware of the methods

of their de(con)struction

my god you have stirred

me up and it feels

so good to once

more engage and

be wanton for the

damage that you could

inflict on me in

letting you in

in the possibility

of your vision

beneath my closed

eyelids, to be unheard

by you, but for you

to feel the bass of

my voice against the

closeness of your skin

that would content me

Five Men 23.05.06

I scream wracked the windows

of my home tonight

and I am past the point

of tentativeness

I ran out to the calls of

“They're down the canal”

and a woman screaming

“Get the bastards!”

I had not run that fast months

my damaged knee, but the pent

frustrations of hijackings

break-ins and the muggings

of ninety-one year old women

spurned me onwards, I ran with

two men, I the biggest of

us three and I caught up

to the 'bastards' who'd

attacked my neighbour lady

five men in the darkness of

rondebosch, canal water and leaves

I stood there as they

shouted at one another

running and confused at

people chasing them:

the reverse predation

and it was stranger still

when they ran at me and
I stood my ground.

One stopped, waved a knife

and ran away. Although

I was not fearful, stupid as

that may seem, it would

have been more foolish still to

die alone there, having outrun

my friends, but I knew

I knew and I knew, that

part of me had wanted

to attack him, to make

him feel attacked, to rip

at his knife-hand with my

hands to punch him with

my frustrated fists and to

kick at the lowness of it.

Earlier I had tried to recall

synonyms. They came to me

as I ran my chase:

Dialectical. Disputatious.

And they were so damn

appropriate the dialectics

of the material, the stolen

and the gone – the paradox

the rich fearing the strength

of poverty as young men

race our streets in their

casual attempts at 'work'

of laptops and old ladies'

purses, the radios and old

shoes in cars, the left, the

lost and the alone. Gone.

A Primary School Classroom in a Township 25.05.06

Far far from the grasp of gusty seas and cling-wrap

beaches these faces the stalks of brown seaweed in

an ocean of white paint and ink-stained desks, they

are the wind-blown pick-'n-pay packet children of

Cape Town's shores blown into the overheads and

highways caught up in the barbed-wire berths that

surround the schools in which they were once sweet

once young, momentarily youthful in the bright, sunlit

corners of these too dim rooms. The boy with the

ink on his pale hands left his mark in the sand near

the school's gate, he glanced across his shoulder at

the rust tin soccer games, the gravel clean and innocent

in the face of all the running, the games and the

flagrant inaction, the careless joys of education

primary and formative as it should be. Yet it could

be more: with the ideas of carpets beneath feet, the

concepts of books on shelves and pencils in hands

or chalkboards that would meet with chalk, rather

than the drum of dull voices and their echoes on

cemented floors, the emptiness of bookless shelves

and the orchestral silence of unwriting children.

I would not claim that their tongues are not golden,

nor that their eyes could not remember the greens

and blues of beached days, but the talking, the reading

and the idea of imagination seem sparse here, it is

difficult to consider them, to conceive of what once

would have been imagined, would have been naked,

burning and eaten up by tastes gone dull from disuse

for the paper-thin boys breaking into the waves of the

smaller girls look on in shocked hair ways, eyes wide

at umlungu, eyes brighter still at how we so become

idols, how we are the moment by moment recreated

histories playing out our drums on the skin of their

ancestors, and them the heirs to lost thrones and further

gone lineages of men, bought, sold, liberated and sold anew.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Posted by Simon Halliday | Sunday, May 21, 2006 | Category: | 3 comments

Ok, so one of the guys that I tutor for, Ron Irwin, asked me to help him write an article on Affirmative Action (as this is a passion of mine, in a strange way). One of the adjuncts was that Men's Health also asked him to write on the 5 Biggest Myths on Affirmative Action and on Black Workers. I got 5 for Affirmative Action, but I didn't get further than 3 for Black Workers. I read an article by Fryer and Loury last year and a lot of what I wrote was influenced by what they wrote and my own thinking subsequent to that. Enjoy!

5 Biggest Myths about Affirmative Action

1. Affirmative Action isn’t about quotas it’s about a ‘goal of government’.

Regardless of whether you buy into Affirmative Action or not, it is about actual specific numerical goals, both in terms of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and in terms of the transformation of specific companies. Believing that you don’t have to fulfil a specific numerical quota is na├»ve. Companies need to fulfil quotas in order to be BEE compliant and in order to be in line with the transformation outcomes delineated in the employment equity act. It isn’t going to be anything fuzzy such as a ‘goal’, it’s a cold hard number that needs to be met by every single company to transform the economy, the workplace and the class structure of South Africa.

2. Affirmative Action Will Help the poor of South Africa

Sadly, in most cases this is a mythical ideal. Those people who are going to benefit are the people who are well-connected and well-educated. What does that mean? It’s most likely the black sons and daughters of black businessmen and politicians who are going to benefit the most from affirmative action policies. The poor and underprivileged may be overlooked because of the dramatic problems in the education system that are still prevalent throughout South Africa: the lack of throughput from Matric to technical tertiary education degrees such as Engineering, Maths and other applied sciences.

3. Race-neutral policies are more ethical and effective than race-specific ones

Again this is a myth based on a myopic view of ethics. In terms of equitable approaches to employment in the ideal world people would come from exactly the same backgrounds and be able to attend homogenous schools that rewarded hard work and intellectual pursuits. This isn’t the case. Sadly, in South Africa with a dramatic history of inequality in basic education levels and inequality in incomes (which means that if you are white your parents could pay for you to go to an even better school if they wanted), these inequalities in investment in infrastructure and institutions in specific areas are going to be felt for generations to come. In order to deal with them one of the only ways to intervene is to have ‘race-sighted’ rather than ‘race-blind’ policies. Moreover, race specific policies are one of the only ways to compensate and cater for the unethical historical treatment of specific race groups. In addition to this, Affirmative Action does not say that white people should not be employed, or that they are not allowed in specific jobs, what it says is that companies need to go about using their budgets to recruit qualified black individuals. This neither unethical nor ineffective, it is a dramatic attempt to reform the institutions in our society such that they become conducive to multiracial circumstances – an ethical and efficient outcome.

4. It should be about equal opportunities

Well, yes it should be. The problem however, as related above, is the fact that opportunities are seldom equal. In fact in most circumstances we see many situations in which the whites in this country because of the institutions that are available to them in still predominantly white areas, are at a distinct advantage in the ‘opportunities’ game. No one can honestly say that a child going to Sinethemba Secondary School (???) is given the same ‘opportunities’ as a child going to Rondebosch Boys High School. What does this mean? In many situations as a white individual in South Africa you have been given a multitude of opportunities that will increase the use of you as an individual relative to many of the black individuals in the country who are still victims of the multiple inferior institutions with which they interact on a daily basis. Government is trying to change things, but it takes time, and not just time but money and the expertise of individuals who are committed to change the system. The idea that you should then be given an ‘equal opportunity’ in terms of job availability is nigh on ludicrous, you are an overwhelmingly good candidate because of the number of opportunities that have been fed to you throughout your life, don’t claim that simply because there are suddenly Affirmative Action policies in this one area of your life that you are suddenly downtrodden and part of the exploited proletariat.

5. Affirmative Action always affects ‘me’

The short answer is ‘no’. Grow up. Every single job wasn’t a job reserved for you. Every single interview wasn’t an interview which was meant to result in a job for you. There are a number of jobs out there and the fact is that if you are a highly skilled individual you should get one regardless. Affirmative action is about getting people who haven’t been involved to be a part of the picture, and not only are they changing the look of the company photo, but hopefully they are changing the way the company itself is run; for the better. That job you didn’t get? Maybe you didn’t suit the profile. Maybe you weren’t qualified, experienced, confident, well-trained, or [fill this space] enough – all of these are reasons you would have thought that you didn’t get the job previously before affirmative action came about. These things still apply now, if not even more so than they ever did before. The reason being that previously, you or your buddy may have gotten the simply because you were white, maybe you weren’t qualified enough, but you still got the job. The tables have been turned. Go and get an honours degree, an MBA, or get involved in a project, some volunteer work, show that you are a worthwhile candidate. If you are you will be hired.

In terms of myths about black workers…

1. They aren’t as qualified

Wrong answer. They may not have been as qualified on average immediately after Apartheid, but right now there are more and more black graduates entering into the job market. Moreover, if they have been trained recently with more rigorous methods, the possibility is that they may even be trained better than you. What that means is that not only are they a black candidate, but they are a black candidate with a good qualification.

2. They don’t work as hard

Hate to say it, but wrong again. In order for a black individual to retain a high-end job they are most likely going to have to work as hard as anyone else. In fact, they are quite likely going to have to work harder than that for the simple reason that they may be in slightly over their heads. Don’t con yourself into thinking that you have a monopoly on the ability to work hard if you came out of white middle class suburbia.

3. They get paid too much

No, they don’t. This is basic economics. Currently, they are possibly being paid more than their white counterparts because of there being a high demand combined with a low supply of black professional workers. Low supply and high demand result in a high price. A high price in this instance is simply a higher wage to retain the services of a specific product – the product being the services of a black professional in a specific field. They are not being paid ‘too much’ they are being paid the price that the market has determined for them (the market incidentally which lib-dems such as most whites favour so hotly). If by ‘too much’ you mean more than you, then yes that may be true, but think of it in economic terms and it’s simply the result of basic market dynamics. Incidentally, what makes affirmative action even more important in this circumstance is that as it progresses these payment differentials will decrease because the necessity for them will have drastically diminished – the supply of qualifies black individuals will have increased lowering the price at which the market clears...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Economics, Power and Capitalism

Posted by Simon Halliday | Sunday, May 14, 2006 | Category: | 0 comments

I was asked the following 3 questions - they are in bold. I responded as I did below. You can comment to me what you think.

(a) How do we inspire less selfishness? Tough question. Meditate? Pray? Construct morality on social contract theory? Construct institutions that incentivise selflessness - i.e. use selfishness to defeat itself? What do you guys think would make a practical difference?

Ok, I don’t think that we can really inspire less selfishness, except in terms of regulation of corporates to ensure that they don’t exploit labour, or to ensure that they do not exploit natural resources. The key here is an efficient and effective regulatory body which can actually adequately monitor what corporates are doing and hold them responsible for their behaviour. Personally, I don’t think we’ll be able to change individual behaviour, I think that the only way to adequately reinforce behaviour that is somewhat altruistic is to have government become more efficient, publicly so in fact, so that people can see where their tax money is going. On this, it is entirely feasible for us to pay even higher taxes than we are in South Africa, assuming that we can begin to see better outcomes. Obviously graft and corruption are enemies of this outcome, but we can but hope that government becomes more efficient and that they find ways to eliminate graft thus ensuring that we see where the money that we as taxpayers pay goes somewhere – Social Grants, Public Hospitals, Infrastructure, whatever. (the new public works programs if they are re-vamped (which they are meant to be) should do some good here).

(b) How do we protect against selfishness? Tough question. Confer legal rights on people? Overthrow capitalism in a glorious communist revolution?

Personally, I believe that a version of regulated or ‘responsible’ capitalism is the only way that we can eventually see a positive future for SA. This is contingent on several factors. The first is that a revolution of any sort is costly and time-consuming and therefore is unlikely to be considered useful. Secondly, capitalism is the game that is played by almost all countries and one of the only ways that we can ensure some kind of improved aggregate lifestyle for South Africans (and Africans in general) is if we learn to play this game better than it is played by members of the first world. We need to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of institutions, we need policies to be implemented with measurable goals and with individuals and member of government accountable for what they do. This does not require a change in government, nor does it even require a strong opposition, it simply requires responsible governance by the party in power. Something of which I believe they are capable, especially in the context of the massive improvements that have resulted from their rule in the past five years (I don’t count the first 5 as they were basically emergency management subsequent to the nightmare that constituted Apartheid Economics). Moreover, socially democratic models are quite likely to work in the long run, Thabo Mbeki is a big fan of people like Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, or of socially democratic models such as Sweden.

Commensurate with this is a necessity for an increase in the skills of the average individual. This then requires an improved education system, and a system which in turn reflects the changes that need to occur in the economy. Hence campaigns for increased math and science education, for higher quality teachers, etc are all within the ambit of this eventual policy goal. This means though that the ANC as a party are going to have to reverse some of their decreased spending on education, even though SA has high education spending as a percentage of GDP internationally, a lot of the money goes unspent, moreover when it is interacted with the equitable share system the provincial and national goals need to be aligned in order to have proper educational outcomes. Interesting things to note are simply things such as the success of the primary school feeding program in Mpumulanga, which will hopefully result in higher marks and increased attention for later education and remedy the nightmare that has been that province’s education outcomes in recent history (in the 2002 School Register of Needs survey, Mpumulanga was often left out because the schools had such poor data, and inadequate data provision).

(c) And, very importantly, how can we reconcile any answers to (a) and (b) above with the idea of freedom? If you agree that human freedom is a value worth pursuing (which I certainly hope you do), how can we balance the need for limiting selfishness with the value of liberty to do what we want?

To a large extent I think that liberty is over-rated (Yes, that was meant to incense you Al). Although the previous statement was somewhat inflammatory, I do believe it to a large extent. I think that because of the indoctrination that we have received in terms of ‘personal liberties’ in western societies, people have an incorrect belief that they should be allowed to do whatever they want. I may be sounding all 1984 here, but there are many instances in which personal beliefs and personal liberties are not necessarily for the best of society as a whole or society on aggregate. Yes, I like the fact that I have freedom of movement, of expression, etc, but I don’t really believe that they are intrinsic rights that are necessary in order for everyone to live happy lives. I think that our ideas of freedom often constrain us to believe in a system that has to promote these ideals when they are not necessarily for the best, I would gladly sacrifice my freedom to move out of South Africa if I believed it would help solve South Africa’s poverty (granted this is a long shot, but an interesting point nonetheless, it is meant to be purely illustrative). The problem I think is that people make the argument that ‘life is only worth living if you have freedoms A through Z’, I think that if we all had Freedoms ‘A through X’ but not Y and Z, we could have a more successful society. Nevertheless, this does not mean that I believe that government should limit freedoms. The honest truth is that the limitation of individual freedoms has almost inevitably been correlated with countries which have subsequently failed, this would then mean that if South Africa started doing such it could be indicative of the proverbial end-days for our country. The above argument was meant purely as a philosophical understanding of what I believe is relevant – I think that if everyone could be fed, had a job, access to amenities, etc I would limit myself in many ways to see that occur. I would prefer not to have to do so though.

All of the above being said, it is very difficult to come up with ‘practical’ solutions that don’t limit the freedoms of business or of individuals. Corporations have a large amount of protection, as does labour. I believe that both of them could do with less protection. The right wing will scream at the violation of corporations and the left wing will scream at the violation of labourers – each of them contributes to the problem and they both need to make concessions in order to improve eventual outcomes for the country. Labour laws could be made more liberal and reduce the costs for hiring and firing individuals, equally corporate taxes could be higher, or at least the coporate sector could be duty-bound to do more for the country, for example the service could be requested to do work for government pro bono, or maybe they could be awarded government contracts contingent on their following certain practices (this or at least a version thereof is in place in certain instances).

I believe that people are very scared to give up what they have. Many of the white people in South Africa are still unprepared to pay the ethical price for Apartheid. My personal belief is that if you are a white individual in South Africa over the age of 5 you have immorally and unethically benefited from Apartheid in one way or another: either you received better schooling, or your parents had a better job, or you made money which was tantamount to being made at the blood cost of others. The White population of this country does not wish to take responsibility for this, we worry about our property rights (the property of which was often gained at dramatic cost to others of different races), or our ‘personal freedoms’ to which we are so philosophically attached. I believe that this often contributes to many white people acting against government when they could be acting in accordance with what government is trying to achieve. I reiterate that I am not trying to split this into an ‘us’ and ‘them’ scenario, but simply that white people overvalue what they have and undervalue what they owe. People too easily forget.

Is there no possible solution in striving for 'ethical capitalism'? Is there no point in fighting to 'make trade fair'? ('Ethical' and 'Fair' adopting primarily the assumption that unbounded selfishness is shit, as evidenced, for example, by the moral claims underlying Patrick's email: e.g. wasting natural resources is bad; selling tobacco to children is bad; firing atomic bombs at civilians is bad; rights for workers is good; voting to release Mandela was good; etc).

As I stated above, I believe that ethical capitalism or responsible capitalism is the system which is most likely to succeed. However, it will entail a large amount of sacrifice on an individual level, in terms of income, tax, personal benefits, the education of one’s children, and possibly several other levels. The stark reality is that many of us had extraordinary educations at private institutions, for us to have a morally and ethically responsible government may require of us a situation in which we send our children to schools that could be dramatically inferior to those that we attended. There will be a certain loss of the very high quality of services that we experienced because many of those services had been reinforced almost at the direct cost of services to the historically disadvantaged in our country.

In terms of making trade fair, this is a worthy goal in and of itself. The problem is normally that European and US representatives don’t want to come to the party. As was seen this week when the deadlines for the EU (specifically France) were to be met for the Doha trade round, the EU pushed them off. If the pattern continues unabated then the Doha round may end up as a complete failure as more protectionists gain power in the US and the EU respectively. It will not be happy. Making trade fair is a worthy goal, but with the number of times that the developing world has been burnt by promises by the developed world, the developing world need to see some indication of authenticity by the developed world before it will warrant any action by them to reduce their trade barriers, their tariffs, NTBs, etc.

In addition, the process of ‘making trade fair’ requires an equalization of political power which is external to such things as who has veto power on the UN, or who can buy off whom in the WTO. This kind of equalization of power requires even more of both sides of the developing/developed world because it requires them to take cognizance of their own political weaknesses and to deal with them without becoming melodramatic.

A comment on the selfishness issue: I don’t believe that this flows from Monotheistic religions, it most likely flows from a enlargement of personal preservation and personal genetic preservation. Hence, I want to make more money to ensure that my genetic offspring are more likely to produce offspring. The more money and power I have, the more likely this is to occur and the more offspring me and mine are more likely to have. It just so happens that the largest hegemon at the current moment in time is predominantly constructed of people who profess to be Christian. I believe that in many situations people will revert to genetic imperatives, even though they may believe or have faith in others. I agree that it seems strange for monotheistic religions which often promote unselfishness and love to be present in the face of so much selfishness. I think it is just genetic nature. Obviously there are possibilities for us to override genetics, but I think in many cases people simply revert.

Ok, so that wasn’t entirely coherent, but it’s a start. I think I get across some of what I am thinking about. Tell me what you are thinking, contemplating, etc.


P.S. If you haven’t listened to it yet, there is an interesting interview with the guy who wrote the article on The Economist Website.

Beneath are a few things that I wrote in an internet debate about The Economist.

Posted by Simon Halliday | | Category: | 0 comments

So a few perspectives that may be of interest in the mountains of economics reading that I have done.

Firstly, Englebert (2000) isolated a ‘legitimacy’ index that contained variables of democratization, graft, corruption, etc in order to ascertain whether that was an adequate explanation of something called ‘The African Dummy’ by Barro (1994) (The Africa Dummy is a variable occasionally thrown in to cross-country regressions because of just being an African Country, it is generally significant and has a large magnitude of impact, i.e. it’s bad to be in Africa). Similarly, Ndulu and O’Connell (1999) have done similar work on governance structure, institutions, etc in order to ascertain whether they are at the centre of Africa’s poor performance economically rather than just politically, although there paper has some problems in it, it makes an interesting contribution by an implementation of something called ‘The Lipset Hypothesis’ which basically says that those countries with better initial pre-democracy institutions will do better than the others. This is better for SA, but sucks for much of the rest of Africa.

Ok enough of that, but something which may prove interesting is that Bhorat and Oosthuizen (forthcoming) show that the SA government gives more support for the poor and unemployed than is supposedly given by COSATU. This is a really interesting result mainly because COSATU continually defends itself by saying that it protects the poor and the unemployed by protecting the individual in those households who is employed. Government’s protection of these is categorized by their offering of the Child Support Grant and the Old Age Pension, which disproportionately support the two lowest income groups in South Africa (i.e. those with incomes of 0-400 and 401-800 rand per month). Incidentally, if we combine these two groups into a group of 0-800 rand per month, this single group holds over 75% of South Africa’s unemployed. This is an intuitive result as it is most often the poor and uneducated who do not have the resources to obtain an education or find the money to even obtain a job (finding work incurs costs), moreover with recent studies into ‘network theory’ of job searches these people can’t get jobs because they don’t have friends who have jobs. Self-reinforcing cycles of siffness.

Nevertheless, on Matthew’s points on Robert Guest and subsequent Economist views on Africa, and South Africa specifically. Guest is not at all positive about South Africa in The Shackled Continent, moreover, if the current editorial team maintain his ideological standpoint then I cannot believe that they will represent South African policies in what would be considered a positive light. Notwithstanding that, the survey is more positive than the previous one as Matthew says (had to read it previously) although we should not let that lull us into believing or agreeing with everything that is presented by The Economist or by the Financial Times. I would also contest Matthew’s statement that The Economist is at all centrist, yes they did not support Berlusconi’s outright capitalism, but in terms of Italian politics he was considered right wing, and being slightly left of the right wing does not suddenly make a publication centrist. However, if we agree that the so-called centre is moving more ‘right’ then Matthew’s considerations may have more credence (I know that this was researched in a recent study, I can’t remember the names of the authors). Nevertheless, I do agree that such a publications focus on issues such as graft and corruption do not necessarily coincide with a specific political agenda. What also reinforces what the articles were saying is Mbeki’s recent commentary to reinforce the arguments of both papers on the role of cronyism in South Africa. It is a massive problem. In my mind though, we need to consider this in the context of the positive which Stuart brought up. Additionally, if we look at how the government is doing in beginning to cause accelerated growth (although that is admittedly debatable – that the govt policy is causing it that is), that there are numerous increases in poor peoples’ access to amenities, that there are supposedly decreases in both poverty and inequality (SA going down in the world rankings of ‘most unequal countries’) then we must see that there are good results from the current government. The obvious question that covers most peoples lips is whether there is a sufficiently strong trickle down effect for the benefits of economic growth to be felt by the unemployed, those that Bhorat and Oosthuizen (forthcoming) and Bhorat and Leibbrandt (2001) investigate as being the most vulnerable. I hesitate to posit an answer to that question.

One area though that I think could have done with more observation is that of primary and secondary education, the availability of teachers and whether the new OBE based education system will supply tertiary institutions with sufficiently skilled individuals for the rigours of that training. We all know that SA faces a skills deficit, the question is then whether the primary/secondary responses to the tertiary needs are properly met.

So that was my initial 2 cents. If it makes any interesting points let me know.


Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings

Posted by Simon Halliday | | Category: | 0 comments

It's actually Sunday morning now. I like Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings. I am listening to the band 'Something for Kate'. They're a kind of chilled rock band, the song 'Hide' is a fun one, one of the lyrics goes 'You only hide because you know I'll find you'. I wonder about it, about having someone who would hide from me so that I could find them. Notwithstanding all that, life is good (s'good). Lecturing has improved, even subsequent to a clash with the convenor of the course (shock-horror). These things happen, I am not too worried though.

I saw an enjoyable movie on Friday night: 'Shopgirl' with Clare Danes. The idea behind it is about confusion over love and being in love with people who confess not to be in love with you, it's also about being on anti-depressives (not that that's a common deus ex machina in movies these days hey?). Nevertheless, it's a cool film. Jason Schwartzman's character is suitably fumbling and unaware of his surroundings, especially after his 'I heart Huckabees' performance, this adds to his character as an actor. I have really come to like his acting.

Otherwise, I had dinner this evening with Seraj, Tess, Becks and Lyndal. Fun. Good curry. Talked a bit of politics. Darfur - keeping people informed of genocide sucks sometimes - they don't seem to know what's going on and then you say "Yes, aid workers and refugees have been systematically murdered." Conversation enhancer of note. I was going to bring up Iran and the problems of nuclear empowerment, but I was unsure as to how that would go down after our discussion over whether humans are inherently selfish (at least self-interested) and whether this can be overcome by social pressures and social patterns of behaviour - espeically in the context of SA and our poverty, unemployment, etc. This is also all subsequent to a large internet debate on these things (in fact the I'll put my 'responses' up here, enjoy).

Anyway, the day moves more into Sunday. Rain is falling and Cape Town is getting colder. I have uploaded some photos of a beautiful woman I took photos of on Thursday evening - Monica. Was doing it randomly for some Rag people. Yup, weird. Check my facebook for them.

I should sign off, I feel like reading, the cold is getting tighter around me. Night night friends.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Posted by Simon Halliday | Thursday, May 04, 2006 | Category: | 1 comments

I had always thought that I would be a good teacher, that I am a good teacher. I have been challenging this recently. Wow! It has been difficult teaching 1200 students, good difficult though. I am learning about my own capabilities. I teach 4 classes a day – the expectation being that on average 300 students will come to each lecture. The variety of the students is fascinating, frustrating and daunting. I have to cover 6 chapters in 4 weeks worth of lectures (15 lectures), this means that I have less than three lectures per chapter. The students don't seem to grasp the gravity of this, at least those who don't understand what is going on. We operate under the assumption that they understand their first year work, as well as the work that they have covered in previous sections, but I keep on coming across gaps in their knowledge that I must bridge in order for them to understand what I am lecturing on, else they will fail. That is not necessarily a bad thing for some of them. It becomes worrying, more and more so. I want them all to pass, but I know that many of them won't. I have to do my best to ensure that they do, but I am fearful of their inability to deal with the pressure. My expectations have been sullied. I know that I can teach well, that I do teach well, but I had not catered to the preferences that are so variable among such a large group of individuals. It is daunting. I deal with it.


Posted by Simon Halliday | | Category: | 0 comments

Father 17.04.06

You rail at my

inability to talk

to you

Not understanding

the child's voice

in me

two and ten and

sixteen years old

howling at the

three times departed:

returned figure

claiming to be

my father

for I am still the

children that

I was

and unforgiving and

uncomprehending as

they were

I still am

Communication 24.04.06


Would it be all right for me

to cry on your shoulder

and for you to look

the other way

while I do it?

Would you mind

clasping my wet hands

in yours,

but not asking why

when I do it?


It's not so much the measured way I laugh

as you do what you can to insult me,

Nor the times I did my best to listen

as a trail of your tears marked your passing.

Now all I demand is the solitude

of being alone, of the silencing,

of the lost, the measured, the quieting:

the weighting of the words that muted me.


cold cape winter darkness

shone in the moonlight

captured by the moon

caught by the stars

clasped in raindrop reflections

shining darkness!

luminous alive darkness!

i am so enamoured

you are quiet forgiving

and do not need my

requited affections


There will be time for us to talk

when this is all over and done

I will no longer hold her then

her markings on me will have gone.

We will laugh and I'll be joyous

so please don't lament for me now

The steel's in the knowledge of love,

not its give, its take, or its how.

The collector 30.04.06

is an old man

stooped in his speech

but restless in a body

prematurely aged

(at least so he considers)

he places me on the wall

next to him:

smiling, made

content in collection

he wanders around us

the collected, the

claimed. He smiles

and he laughs

as much as he collects

us we are that which

collects him, gathering him

placing him upright

(the redressing of age)

he is weakly lined now

his speech is lighter

and his hearing clear

of memories

for they are unnecessary

in our presence we

are his fleshed memories

we are his bodied moments

and in us he meets himself

again and again and again

retreating into the collections

of his past, his immaturing body

(at least so he considered)

Grand 01.05.06

My father won't hear any

question whether his mother

was a great woman, an angel,

or whether she was

mean or moody

he talks of her as he

would of a luminary,

a truly great person

“A woman of integrity

and such kindness”

when all I recall of her

is a hunched woman

closed navy blue shoes

a strange rank air

an other woman not

my mother

Nana would scold me for my

childish ways of too much noise

and too few manners

though most had thought me

a silent, polite child

I am told that the woman

I recall is not her, his mother,

but some other creature:

age and disease had

possessed the woman I met

it all makes me unsure whether

his memory or mine is

the realer and, if I was once

an angel to him, what

does that make me now?

Mbizo1 28.04.06

Have I been named

and I live up

to calling

In naming you:

Would I be a traitor?

Would I be cheating

on what called us?

Or would it be

fateful, even


For me to so renege

on our honest deceptions?

For they were

and they are the

unguilty constructs

of those unfamiliar.

And so I don't believe

myself traitorous,

simply unwise.

I name you.

I call you.

Neither of us shamed.

Distinct 28.04.06

Yes you are attractive

Yes, I like you.

Yes, you are sexy.

And all of that is good

But No, I have not

fallen in love

And No, I will not


But that doesn't

mean that my bed

does not desire you

nor that we should wait

for perfect moments

or timed romantics

in the absence of love

we can still grow

and move beyond

its vicious timings

for I am not re-prepared

for it, we are not

permanent and I shall

not be here long. Choose.

Stomping prawns 04.05.06

As a child,

less disobedient than

I am now, we would,

each summer,

make a mission of

our fishing in the mouth

of the Keurboom River

it was not without preparation:

our feet were the missionaries

into the prawns' homes

coercing them out of the

mud beneath our feet

nudging them from

quieter existences

into our neatly muddied


When learning to cast the rod

to which I had tied

my prawn, my feet

were cold and I didn't

dare say it. I was a big boy.

I didn't really like stomping

prawns, although you'd

thought me enamoured of

it in the gameplaying and

laughter that you made of it.

I never had the knack for

catching them. I was far more

interested in seeing how they

got away and every one

I caught was a moment lost,

an escape to which I was not

made witness.

Lookout2 04.05.06

It is a late night sea

that stirs before me

my feet in the turmoil

of its grip, slipping

through the sand and

waters covering my feet.

I am thirteen years old

and I am quiet on this

dark beach the lonely

waves curling their

way above my knees

my knuckles bony and my

windsheeter slapping my neck.

I am tall at fifteen

and the sea grips my

heart in its cold, wet

hands reminding me

that my standing here

is a lonely affair: the wait

between the water's kisses.

And it is a winter of

another birthday loading

the sea, the sand – the water

always lurking in my

in my mind guiding me

towards it, towards child memories:

The sea was the house

of my youth's innocence

stored there yearly and

returned summer-strong

the hot days and cold

blustering nights of

fishing, pansy shells

and the recollection

of moments of the

sea's love for me, its

unconditional acceptance,

its giving tides.

1A Xhosa name, given to me, meaning 'the one who calls'.

2Lookout Beach is a beach in the Plettenberg Bay area.