Towards the unMaking of Heaven, Happiness: a Planet


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Balant: A Beginning, page 1

Subsequently I have been known to all I have met as Pi Pandy. Every week a freighter arrived from, or left for, another part of the galaxy; with, occasionally, and much to my excitement, an intergalactic freighter stopping by. When not in school I invariably found myself loitering about the docking bays eavesdropping on the crews' conversations. Where they had come from, whence they were bound, with my imagination making up for my ignorance of those places.

Or I listened, enchanted, to strange beings conversing among themselves in even stranger languages. While I was at school many of the crews came to know me — the lone boy who hung around the dock bays. I shared none of their facile enthusiasms. Few seemed as hungry for knowledge as I. So long as they did enough to satisfy their tutors the majority were content, were far more interested in playing games, in competing with one another in silly contests. While I was at that particular supply station free-fall diving through the gravityless centre was the fashion.

A dangerous fashion. Several hit the sides of that long tunnel, suffered cuts and broken bones. It seemed that they had to artificially prove their daring, or their endurance. For, after the freefall diving, it then became the fashion to run around the rim of the station, the person who ran the most laps being acclaimed the winner. To me this all seemed very foolish, as any excess must seem to a rational mind.

The daily exercises I did in the privacy of my room were enough to maintain a healthy body. To take such exercises to extremes was injurious to health. Nor did I share my fellow pupils interest in one another. On my mother's outstation everyone bad been permitted their own idiosyncrasies, here they had to outshine. And that desire to outshine manifested itself in what, to me, was the most ludicrous of affectations.

On my mother's outstation the four of us had worn the simple tunics that all space dwellers wear — identical except for length and girth. Yet, on that supply station, as fashion dictated, they painted their tunics, cut pieces from them, stitched pleats into them or added bits to them. All it needed was for a crew to arrive from one of the cities with a slight alteration to their tunics and, within a week, all the tunics on the station were thus altered.

Indeed, on that small supply station, the adults were as childlike as the children. So competitive were they with their peers that they seemed to go perpetually in fear of being usurped. So it was that the majority of adults there unreasonably expected all children to be polite to them while they were not in the least polite to the children. Of all the inhabitants their sole ambition seemed to be to become envied by their peers. To that end they even daubed their faces. I must confess that even I, when I had first arrived, not wishing to appear conspicuous, I too had tried to keep pace with those changing fashions.

Although I had quickly relinquished all such attempts. For I had seen that, if I was a week ahead of fashion, then I was laughed at for a fool; and, if I fell a week behind fashion, then I was also laughed at for a fool. So I reverted to my simple unadorned tunic, which for a while became The Fashion; and so I was heralded as a trendsetter. When the fashion had passed I was told that I was out of date. In my weekly letter home I told my mother to tell the metallurgist that his fortune probably lay in selling his ornaments to the gullible inhabitants of supply stations.

As you will probably have gathered I was not popular with my fellow pupils. They mocked, not only my tunic, not only my refusal to take part in their games, but also my diligence in my studies and my faithful practise of my antiquated violin. They also took a puerile delight in making fun of my name — for a time I became ridiculously known as Twenty Two Sevenths. I was not alone in being mocked by them.

But those others who were like me, who were also assiduous in their studies; like me they did not seek the company of their fellows.

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The butt of many jokes we kept ourselves apart and aloof. So I made no friends on that supply station. When I was fifteen I passed all the exams to qualify as a fully-fledged technician. But, although I was deemed to know the mechanics of machines and machine la nguages, I still felt that my learning had only just begun.


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I also knew that I could learn no more on that supply station, so I wrote to my mother asking if I could go to university. She consented. My tutor, a kind man, helped me to select a university. I wanted to study comparative technologies. The university that accepted me did so because I was able to play the violin — they had an orchestra. The university was in a city two galaxies distant. Where the supply station was at least a hundred times the size of our old outstation, I was told that the city was at least!

My final weeks at the supply station passed in a fever of impatience.

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Even more disturbing, in Moslem Africa, and partly reflecting what Huntington Everyone speaks of it … But democratization will not diminish, but add to, the great disorder. Democracy, by allowing many ideas about happiness and the good society to flourish, has led to increased political contestation, violence and unhappiness in Africa. The inherent challenges of pursuing happiness through democratisation in Africa have also been compounded by globalisation. Globalisation, characterised by simultaneous economic integration and disintegration, convergence and clashes of cultures and civilizations, has led to a fascinating redefinition of the unhappiness-conflict dialectic in Africa.

While the increasing integration of Africa into the global economy offers numerous opportunities for increasing happiness levels, through, for instance, easy access to quality goods and services, it also generates anxiety and tensions. Those disaffected by the impact of globalisation have depicted and violently resisted it as new forms of colonialism, westernisation and imperialism, by which the West seeks to impose supposed universal truths and notions about happiness, human rights, good governance and democracy on the continent.

In short, globalisation, by introducing new values about happiness which challenge old ones, has been an invidious source of violent conflict in Africa, violence which has been amplified by the intense competition for economic resources. As Gomes Porto In the unending conflict in the DRC, for example, extreme economic inequality, in a country with abundant diamond and other precious minerals, created unhappiness and hence conditions for violent conflict.

Similarly, in Nigeria oil has sparked localised rebellion, while in Sudan control of oil and ecological resources fuelled the civil war. The point is, as Hobbes Clearly, notes Gomes Porto Whether motivated by grievances or greed, struggles to access and control ecological resources as a means to achieving happiness, remain a major cause of conflicts in Africa Gomes Porto Development, depending on context and situation, can promote or undermine happiness, while lack of development invariably causes unhappiness and conflict.

According to Epicurus Development improves the quantity and quality of goods and services, raises the standards of living, and thus contributes to the ultimate goal of happiness. Development also capacitates individuals, communities and nations in their pursuit of happiness, and through science and technology, it makes production more efficient and cost effective. From this standpoint, development is therefore a necessary condition for happiness.

In particular, development and modernisation have brought new values of happiness which have led to conflict between traditionalists and modernists, rural dwellers and urbanites, the older and the younger generations, and feminists and patriarchs. Escobar , critiquing western development discourses and practices, argues that development has increased unhappiness and entrenched post-colonial dependency on countries of North America and Europe.

In a nutshell, by denigrating local cultures, beliefs and practices, western forms of development have contributed to unhappiness in Africa, and to that extent, constitute a form of violence, which in turn has led to counter-violence in the form of wars of self-determination and militant calls for Islamic states. While certain forms of development may generate unhappiness, lack of development or underdevelopment causes even greater unhappiness and violent conflict. As Gurr cited in Gomes Porto In a similar vein, Collier and Hoeffler In short, the lack of development and the deteriorating economic conditions have contributed to increasing unhappiness and violent conflict.

Such a process also involves multiple actors whose diverse interests, priorities and ideas about happiness render development a contested process, characterised by conflict between its beneficiaries and losers, the happy and the unhappy. This complex relationship between development and happiness has been further complicated by the exponential population growth.

With sex as one of the most easily accessible sources of happiness, especially to the poor, the African population is growing exponentially. In other words, population explosion puts pressure on limited resources, and results in violent competition for declining economic resources. In a word, population explosion, in a context of dwindling resources and limited development, has intensified violent competition for resources, and reflecting the power of dominant ideologies, the competition has taken ethnic and religious forms. It influences happiness by providing a sense of belonging, giving cultural and moral guidance, defining power relationships, and articulating beliefs about common ancestry and destiny.

Because of the distinct ethnic dialects, traditions, and body markings or ear piercing, ethnicity is easily used as a potent political tool for effectively mobilising groups in violent pursuit of collective and individual happiness, and as a weapon for denying some groups access to resources essential to achieve happiness.

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In conditions of economic inequities and injustices, as in these countries, ethnic — and religious — loyalties are exaggerated and hatred of strangers amplified, consequently making ethnicity a major source of violent conflict and unhappiness in Africa. To believers, religion provides a moral and ethical guideline on how to live happily, on earth and in heaven. Some religions, like Islamic fundamentalism, also punish offenders and non-adherents by, for instance, stoning to death women who commit adultery and executing those accused of apostasy or infidelity in some Muslim communities.

Remarkably, as political, economic and social conditions continue to deteriorate, and many become unhappier, there has been a tantalising religious resurgence of considerable proportions on the continent. In Egypt, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan where Jihad, a new militant religious ideology that seeks to establish Islamist states that promote Islamic conceptions of happiness, has emerged. These manifestly religious wars are driven by the desire to access resources that are essential to satisfying that never ending quest for happiness.


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  7. As De Villiers The irresistible attractiveness of religion in times of hardship and desperation subsists in its ability to offer simple answers to complex questions, which are beyond our comprehension. To paraphrase Nietzsche see Hayman In a nutshell, the appropriation of religious — and ethnic, nationalist and peasant — ideologies to justify war, is conditioned by obtaining objective material conditions of unhappiness.

    To sum up, the quest for happiness has motivated and justified violent political action in Africa. Groups competing for economic resources tend to find scapegoats in different ethnic, race and religious groups, who are blamed, stereotyped, vilified, marginalised and attacked as the source of trouble and unhappiness. In Africa, with its complex relationship between structure, knowledge, belief and action, the discourses that most ordinary people are able to employ in assessing conditions and in informing political action are mostly based on religion, ethnicity and traditional culture.

    There is need for more convincing and holistic explanations of our continued unhappiness and propensity to engage in violent conflict. Specifically, there is need for a holistic theory that delves beneath the surface to expose the underlying motivation for violent political action, and that illuminates different ways forward to happiness, peace and prosperity. For myself I always give a writer the opportunity to build the world they are trying to create and if they succeed, then the book works for me.

    In this case, Smith succeeds magnificently. Written in present tense, the pace never lets up Being a disaster novel, it could have easily slipped in to melodrama, but Smith keeps the story on an even keel which makes it all the more believable. Long after you've finished reading, you can't help but wonder how you would react, if faced with same frightening news. If The End Of Science Fictionwere to be filmed then its director would be Ken Loach; and I say that as no small praise, for this book is a triumph of the small people in the world - people forging a path of their own in a supremely uncaring universe.

    It's a triumph for Sam Smith, who has written an understated novel about humanity and our place in the cosmos; an engaging, thoughtful and deeply moving story to make you stop and think about yourself, your life and how you live it. We Need Madmen : Skrev Press. We Need Madmen is a truly fascinating, though brief, exploration of ideas; a deliberately leading and questioning book that may make you feel a little uncomfortable I would have preferred a bit more background into Soper and the Camps, but this is still a gem of a story.

    Yet for those intent on intellectual contemplation there are opportunities to engage with Pi when he approaches each conundrum with delightful logic and consequence prediction This is more than hard scifi, Pi has to learn quickly the wiles of a spectrum of humanity The wide scale of ideas, space and human emotions, even though for young adult takes this novel into a Robert Heinlein-for-teens sub-genre.

    A thoroughly recommended read to any science fiction fan and young reader of adventure, imagination and mystery.

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