Since the beginning of this year we are being bombarded with news that the Economic Crisis is over. And even it is not completely over, we are economically on the 'up'.
I have my doubts.
The former public, and now very much private, utility companies are still busy raking in the money. Water, electricity, health insurance, public transport, cable companies: we were led to believe that privatisation was necessary, if not crucial. The free market should, no would lead to lower rates, lower tariffs, lower premiums, lower charges. Instead, these have gone up and up. Excuses were sought - or made up. In the last few years the crisis and the falling revenue on investments was a good and much used excuse. In 2013 local bus fares went up by 15%. "Catching up with the increase in the cost of living" was the excuse. This year they are up again, "to be able to guarantee a good service to our customers" is the excuse this time. In the meantime salaries have not followed suit. After years of 0% increase a miserable 1% was graciously granted, - which was amply compensated by the abolition of privileges and benefits.
Meanwhile the banks, the main perpetrators in the economy scam, are humbly offering apologies for the prolonged extortion of their customers, and have spent the whole of last year proclaiming that their main concern from now on will be the service to these same customers.
Words. And words alone.
The actions show another picture: interest rates on saving accounts are lower than the rate of inflation, on loans (if indeed the customer can demonstrate that he or she is worthy of such a great honour) they are still as high as ever. Here in the low countries the banks are almost all under the control of the state, but this public control has not led to a more public friendly approach. When it comes to the security of online banking - for example - we, the customers, are more than ever seen as incompetent idiots; and I am convinced the next step will be that we as customers will have to prove that a sudden cleaning-out of our account was not due to our own stupidity.
To those who think I am exaggerating I would like to say "NSA". For which hardcore addict of conspiracy theories would have conjured up what has now come to light about the big-brother activities of this American public organisation? And if you ask me, we have only scratched the surface.
On the other hand, maybe I am turning into a sad old cynic. Maybe I should nurture my more naive side, encourage my 'inner child'.
And that brings us to the music of this post. Isn't it tempting to romanticise about an unspoilt, 'primitive' life in the wild? Living off the earth, being one with nature. The simple existence of the hunter-gatherer.
The music captured on this brilliant cassette and recorded in the central Kalahari by Arthur Krasnilnikoff in 1987 (all tracks except B1) and 1992 (B1) does everything to coax the listener into the idyll. The delicate plucking of the mouthbow and all the other out-of-this-world, magical instruments, the innocence of the singing, but above all the unedited, untouched, uninterfered and intimate character of these great recordings: they all combine to make you want to believe the fairytale. Even the bleating of the goats and the bumping into the microphone contribute to a miraculous feeling of well-being, of paradise, where life is simple and easy.
N!oakwe - Music of the Central Kalahari
But of course life is neither simple nor easy. The hunter-gatherer has been under attack for generations, and the music on this fantastic cassette is just a relic, from another age, another world, as is demonstrated in this documentary from 1980...
N!ai, the story of a !Kung woman (this video is available until March 15 only!).
EDIT February 15, 2014: The video has been replaced by a version with a different sound codec (mp3), as several people indicated they were having problems with the AAC codec I used in the initial version.
3 hours ago