By Ismail Lagardien
3 March 2018. I have been wrestling with the idea of deleting my old blog posts of the past few years, and starting all over. Whenever I considered this there have always been two slight (big) problems, one philosophical (yes, I know…) and one historical. Let me pose them as questions. Have I changed my mind about what I wrote before the end of December 2017, when I “shut down” my website for “maintenance”? Is it necessary to keep an historical record of what I have written over the months and years?
Whenever I think about these questions, I usually arrive at more or less the same answers. I don’t think that I have written anything intellectually significant. I also don’t believe there has been anything of literary significance. That English is my second language is no excuse for spelling or grammatical errors, for unnecessary literary phrases and devices; from pleonasms to malapropisms. Actually malapropisms are almost always bad, so…
Anyway, it does not really matter whether there is a record of anything I have written until now – 3 March 2018. For some reason, probably for the wrong reason, I don’t mind that there are records of what I have written in newspapers, or the one (short) chapter that I wrote for a book, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian. That I haven’t written anything substantive – a book – is because I’ve never had the time (I always told myself), the money to take time away (I never did), the focus (I can’t focus) or the confidence (Really? Do I have to explain that?) or the skills. I am distracted. Back to the future of this blog.
This past week, I came across Gia’s Blog, and the post where she explained her decision to re-organise her blog and remove old posts. Just incidentally, the title of this post is derived from her post, “Just Like Starting Over”. I assume that this was taken, in turn, from the John Lennon song by the same title. She had all her old posts published in a book, at Blog2Print, and wrote:
“…. I’m happy with the result. I just wanted a paper copy of my blog so I could happily trash the digital version. I’ve put the book on my ‘tech book’ shelf… I’ve left a few posts up simply to fill the front page. I may take them down later on as I start to fill this up with posts from my new ‘project’.”
Starting over with this blog is also not simple. One of my very many shortcomings is that I got an education quite late in life (I got a PhD when I turned 50 – actually I don’t feel bad about that), and although I worked as a journalist and photojournalist for many years before I went to university in my 30s, I have failed to “specialise” in anything, or become an “expert” at anything. I also know little to nothing about “branding” myself. About the “branding,” I really couldn’t be arsed.
The two things I know how to do, and at which I am rather average, is writing and photography. This means that any blog I have will, more than likely, be to host my writing on a range of issues and on photography. My interests? Well, I am generally interested in inequality, poverty, uses and abuses of power, in photography – more on photography than making pictures (I already mentioned that I was pony at making pictures) – in political economy, cultures and media. Through my love of film, I will probably dip into audio visual bits and pieces.
In the past I have used blogging, on other blogging platforms, to test some ideas, and provoke some responses. The results were fascinating. This, then, my own website, is my attempt at starting over – in a more structured way. I have made some of my older posts public and left the others “private” and unpublished. I may get to them and take out the more irascible bits and the bollocks, but for now. I may not republish them at all. Either way, I am starting over.
A nod to Gia Milinovich: Yes, I arrived at your site because of Brian. I am a great admirer of his because I like physics, and enjoy his ability to explain complex issues. Oh, and Minnesota is my favourite state in the United States.
Physics. I know nothing about physics, and I am satisfied with that. I was trained in the social sciences, especially political economy. I do, however, I apply Richard Feynman’s wisdom to many things in my own writing on political economy, and I especially like his statement that science is, “A satisfactory philosophy of ignorance”. Actually, whenever I contest the “physics envy” of orthodox economists – especially their lack of humility – I am always inspired by something attributed to Mr Feynman:
“Imagine how much harder physics would be if electrons had feelings.”
I sincerely hope he said that, if only to convince orthodox economists and other clever people that the social world is really difficult and complex and … well, it is really daft to be so terribly arrogant and cock-sure about anything we think we know about the social world at any given time.
“The lavishly illustrated book has sidebars written by some of the best known journalists and commentators at work today, comments from long-time readers, and a fascinating section called Where are they now?, updating readers on the current status of people featured in the M&G. A front-page picture of Firoz Cachalia being dragged off by the police in the late 1980s is for instance juxtaposed with a picture of him as Gauteng MEC for security and leader of the police, showing just how much South Africa has changed.”
I enjoyed this short paragraph because I took the front-page picture. 🙂
The picture (the frame one on the wall over my right shoulder) is the front-page picture referred to, above. This picture of me was made by Gaia Manco, and was part of an exhibit at the Nelson Mandela Centre which opened in 2015, and two years later went to the Nelson Mandela University. I gave a talk at the opening at NMU. An edited version of the talk was published by the Mail & Guardian.