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The Rights of Man (and the Wrongs of Man)

I am very happy that Lady Gaga won the Oscar. An immediate disclaimer – I am not in general a Gaga fan. Yet this time she created something very positive, a movie that I really enjoyed, and a display of immense latent talent. Sadly, it is not always so, and interspersed between the great moments one may find some crazy scenes and very tragic lows. She was (after all) the woman who was almost arrested outside St. Basil's Cathedral because the police believed her clothing choice marked her as a prostitute. That was the least of her transgressions, especially considering her abuse of good Catholic sensitivities.

Lady Gaga is simply a representation of all humanity, a story of ups and downs. The idiom says “what goes up must come down”. Let us dispel a myth – the saying did not come from the famous fellow who supposedly mused about the physics of falling apples. In fact it has wider application than gravitational concepts. We use it for the stock market, for our rugby teams (perhaps we should apply that to the All Blacks, our rugby team goes from lows to bigger lows), to political cycles and many more. The basic tendency is down, and actually the idiom is far more closely related to the law of entropy than to gravity. When it comes to entropy, one should forget about all those complex thermodynamics formulas. It really means that everything tends from a state of order to a state of disorder. In my opinion, entropy is the fundamental physical law of the universe.

Also forget about all those Utopian concepts about mankind having no constructive participation in Planet Earth. Left alone, earth would slowly descend into chaos, in keeping with the law of entropy. Within their limitations, mankind are the only creatures capable of creating a measure of order, and are thus in opposition to the basic concepts of entropy. It is what sets us aside. Sadly, as mankind has proven from Adam through all the ages, we have an equal capacity for accelerating the decay into chaos, and at a rate inconceivable among the other creatures of the natural world. Thus, Hammurabi wrote edicts that acted to create order. Yet mankind also created the Nuremberg Laws, that sowed discord and harm. Our consciences tell us that order is associated with what is good and right, and disorder is associated with the indefensible and with evil. This can be expanded to every level of human endeavour. Sadly, (and indirectly returning to Lady Gaga) intellectual creativeness is not always done for good; remember it took extremely creative and intellectually misguided minds to come up with Zyklon B…

It is amazing how the adjectives associated with order are so positive, and that with disorder so negative: on the one hand harmony, peace, empathy, goodwill, cooperation etc.. On the other we have discord, enmity, chaos, rancour, and the more destructive elements of greed, selfishness and hatred.

In her own small way, Lady Gaga improved (reduces) universal entropy, and therefore harmony. When Beethoven wrote his ninth, mankind improved. When Tchaikovsky wrote the  Italian Capriccio it had the effect of improving his state of mind regarding his chaotic marriage (not to mention the positive gift to the rest of us!)

The point is that everyone with a creative spirit can work for incremental and cooperative good, or equally for destructive harm. It really is an individual choice.

When it comes to South Africa we have to concede that we are collectively responsible for the good of the country. On the one hand you have the cancerous elements dumping filth in our rivers and oceans, promoting harm to our wildlife, spewing vitriol across our airwaves – in general advancing chaos. On the other, some humble people are caring for smelly flamingo chicks, fighting pollution, promoting harmony among the racial groupings, paying their taxes, and are somehow believing in a corrupted and dis-functional judicial system.

Lady Gaga won because her small project (small in the big scheme of things) made the world a better place. I salute her. Across South Africa great numbers of ordinary people are doing their small bit for our heritage – they equally deserve plaudits. Perhaps the strangest is that herein I see a dichotomy. When I see fellow citizens doing good I have the standard emotion of all those of like mind – I feel humbled. The telling attitude is on the opposite side of the spectrum; when greed reigns it is always accompanied by hubris.

Our responsibility stretches to to the physical, to the emotional, and even to the spiritual. Mankind has a biblical injunction to “replenish the earth”. I am so grateful to those who are doing that! They are the unseen hands that make our existence better and our land worthwhile.

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