Imaginings of Sand by Andre Brink

Imaginings of Sand by André Brink is, simply put, a masterpiece. Not only does it bring convincing characters to life, flesh out the history of a people, portray the fortunes of a family coping with imposed and unwanted change, it also addresses one of the main political events of the late twentieth century. And André Brink´s novel does all this without the slightest recourse to polemic or posturing. Its themes and statements emerge from the shared lives of its characters. This is subtle authorship at its most accomplished. How many novels might aspire even to one of these achievements?We are, as in many works by André Brink, not only in South Africa, but also within the Afrikaner community. We see things through the eyes of Kristien, who is clearly named after her grandmother, the dying Ouma, who is called Kistina. The difference between the names is both slight and significant. They may be separated by time and by political difference, but by the time history has had a chance to view them both, they may be much more similar than first sight might suggest. They are undoubtedly cast in different landscapes, not only in time, but also in terms of the landmarks that might endow their individual sense of permanence. Not only do their values seem different, surely they conflict, given their different politics and ages. Mid-thirties Kristien, of course, has been politically active, while her grandmother has lived on an Afrikaner farm all her life.


Imaginings of Sand begins with Kristien being summoned back to South Africa, because her grandmother is dying. In London, Kristien has had ties with the African National Congress and has campaigned against Apartheid. Her family, with roots stretching back to the original Voortrekkers are, on the face of things, conventional Afrikaner farmers, complete with black servants and employees alongside attitudes that accept without question the supremacy of the Dutch Reform Church, allied to supreme white skin and thus Apartheid.The message to Kristien in London arrives as South Africa faces change, just before its first multi-radial elections. Apartheid is already a thing of the past, but not yet officially. Political transition is feared by the Afrikaners and there has been much talk of feared violence, even of bloodbath. Kristien´s family house has been attacked and set on fire. Ouma was very old and perhaps frailer than she liked to admit, but now trauma has taken her close to death. Her doctors expect it to be just a few days hence. Her granddaughter insists she should die at home. She has the place cleaned up and made habitable enough for herself and her grandmother, plus, of course, the servant family.Once home, Ouma Kristina begins to tell her granddaughter the family history and her own life story. How much of it is truth neither Kristien nor we will ever know. Whatever racial or cultural purity the family in theory might claim, Ouma´s history of their ancestry identifies the inevitable complexity. But a thread that runs throughout is the central vulnerability of women. Sweet children, then playthings and finally enforced child-bearers seems to be the repeated and indeed only pattern. Any deviation assumes a break from both culture and identity, but it is a break that anyone from an Afrikaner community finds almost impossible to accomplish. Publicly condemned for any expression of independence, women are equally damned for any sign of disloyalty to community or family or husband, no matter how inconsiderate, lascivious or even violent he may be. For the first time, Kristien comes to terms with the life her own mother led before she died all too young.


History seems to have repeated itself a number of times. Anna, Kristien´s sister, seems to be respectably but unhappily married to Casper, who is both Boer and boor. When he is not chasing a woman´s tail, he is busy organising what can only be described as a vigilante force to anticipate problems of majority rule. They seem determined to get their retaliation in first.And so the tale of family and national history unfolds. The politics of state, community, family and sex develop and intertwine. Race, gender and class play their roles as well. But yet this novel never descends into polemic. It is never less than credible, never less than real. Its style, indeed, in often an African variety of magical realism that both amplifies and enlivens the already fantastical stories of Ouma Kristina. The plot always surprises, even to the very end, but none of these events, however, bizarre, is anything less than credible, From the start, it is a masterpiece.

6 Steps to the Social Aspects of Sustainable Communities Planning

Successful sustainable communities planning can be divided into two categories: physical sustainability and social sustainability. Information on the former (physical sustainability) is readily available but what about the equally important social aspects of building an off the grid eco village? Once energy self-sustainability, food self-sustainability, and structure self-sustainability (home building) is covered, how do you assure that the people in your community will want to stay, and new people will want to join, both of which are foundations of sustainable community growth?

I have identified 6 key components to the social sustainability aspect of community building: decentralized government, individual freedom, recreation, entrepreneurial model for financial independence, group living activities, and an outreach program. It should be noted that A) these are all equally important and B) the importance of each of these increases the more community is emphasized in your eco village; meaning people living together and coexisting rather than just living in the same location and existing.

Decentralized Government:

The definitive work I have read on this point, and recommended for anyone starting a community, would be M. Scott Peck’s book, “The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace.” A summary of why decentralized government, and more specifically decision-making through consensus, is important is three-fold: it builds a community of leaders, it supports equality and fairness assuring everyone is part of major decision-making, and it requires communication and thoughtful interaction.

Each of these three points is important to the long-term social sustainability of a community because they all empower people and keep communication lines open. Lack of communication and people feeling ‘lost in the shuffle’ or insignificant to the creation are arguably the two largest undermining factors of community building, and not just sustainable communities but at work, home, and in people’s families. Nobody likes to feel like their views and needs are going unheard and nobody likes to feel like they aren’t important; the solution is governing by consensus and a decentralized power structure that I’ll cover more in detail in a future article.

Individual Freedom:

Individual Freedom is ESSENTIAL to the growth and sustainability of a community. This seems obvious but my personal opinion is that society as a whole is really missing the boat in this department and the number one reason for people to want to start a new life in an off the grid community, even more important than all the ethical reasons for sustainability, should be freedom.

Individual freedom means being able to dress, think, say, and do what you want as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. If people want to cross-dress, meditate on their head, smoke pot, and worship the Chicken God they should be able to do so in the privacy of their own home without worrying about repercussions OR JUDGMENT. Start your community with this level of freedom in mind and a consensus governing structure will keep it that way and help expand the paradigm of everyone involved.

Recreation

Recreation is about making your community fun. Your community could be the most off the grid super self-sustainable living environment on the planet, but if it is a boring place to be who would want to live or visit it? The solution is building recreation into your daily living structure and involving the entire community. Things like live music, movie nights, mediation or yoga classes, community construction projects, food production, etc. can all function as recreational activities that help bring people together and keep them together.

True sustainable growth of your community comes from making it a place people want to be all the time. If everyone living in your community wants to get away to have fun then you have failed in your mission to create a truly sustainable environment and you should sit down with all of your members and discuss how to fix it. Success in this area will not only guarantee people will want to stay in your community but it will also keep friends, family and new members coming to you rather than you seeking them.

Entrepreneurial Model for Financial Independence

By “entrepreneurial model” and “independence” I do not mean a community model but an INDIVIDUAL MODEL. A self-sustainable community is by definition financially independent but an individual model for financial independence should also be available to those members that desire more than just ‘retiring’ to a community without the possibility of anything else.

The way we are doing this is by pooling the resources of our community and creating businesses (see also Outreach Program below). Any time a new person is considered for community membership we evaluate potential business opportunities they may bring and work with that person, if they are interested, to create residual income streams that benefit both the individual and the community.

By doing this we create more individual freedom and provide opportunity to build a business and still leave room for people that might want to try community living but aren’t sure they would want to stay long-term. This benefits both them because of the resources and capital we can provide, and us because businesses we help to build still pay a small percentage to the community that helped create them even if the business owner decides to move on.

Group Living Activities

Group living activities are things like group dining, child care, educational classes, laundry, etc.; anything that might be a part of traditional living that can be performed more efficiently by the cooperative effort of the community. These are separate from the recreation activities I mentioned above but they can overlap as there is no reason activities like dining can’t also be structured as recreational activities.

The real key is providing benefit exclusive to the community living experience and maintaining the community ‘energy.’ What this means is that people living in your community should easily be able to tout the extensive time and energy-saving benefits of community living; rather than complain about how exhausting it is dealing with so many people so close. Work together to see what can be streamlined for the benefit of everyone and keep discussion open about how to improve any systems in place. Most domestic duty activities can be performed more efficiently and more enjoyably for an entire community of 80-100 people by a rotating group of two or three individuals; this saves time, money, resources, and should garner the appreciation and support of everyone involved.

Combining group living activities also keeps the energy of the community communal; the goal is for your community to feel and operate like a close-knit family. Family energy, however, requires all of the previous four points. If you look at family models that do, versus don’t, work you will see that successful families maintain each of the listed social points: A) a balance of power where everyone is heard and respected B) freedom where everyone feels comfortable being who they are C) social activities that make the family a fun place to be and D) freedom to leave – nobody is trapped financially or otherwise.

Outreach Program

Unless your community goal is isolation, and in my opinion even if it is, an outreach program is essential to supporting the energy and growth of your community because it brings new people to your creation to see what it is. The more self-sustainable your community is, the less tangible reasons people will have to travel outside the community; this means you need to either bring the outside world to you or people will most likely leave the community just for something new.

The outreach program we are creating is through dedicating a little more than a third of the community to tourism, designing the recreational activities so they are part of the daily living plan but open to visitors of the community, and founding the individual entrepreneurial model on an internet web presence that introduces people to the community through the individual businesses. This is a three tiered approach but any one of these approaches can be used to support your community, the important part is that you have some sort of outreach program that not only help build your community but also helps to educate the world.

Conclusion:

Sustainable communities planning is becoming more popular every year. People want to start a new life but don’t know how or don’t have the resources. If you are someone like me working to change the current paradigm and set people free, be sure you consider the social aspects of community building. We already have a plethora of disconnected and uncooperative communities called the cities of America – they aren’t working. Let’s start creating something different and move ourselves closer to the sustainable planet we are capable of.

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