topGreetings from London
where it's been an exciting term so far. Counting philosophy, economics and the Saturday studies, we've had over 1,000 new students enrolled. The building is bulging with people. As one student said, 'It feels like I'm standing by an electricity pylon, humming with energy'.

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With very best wishes, Christine Lambie
In this issue:
Click on the caption to go to article

Stephen Meintjes' book proposes radical change
Meditation - it really works
Margaret Ingles, artist shares her journey

Stephen Meintjes joined the School in 1962 while studying Law at Oxford in England.  He returned to South Africa in 1963 and in 1969 presented the first economics course in the Johannesburg School; his work with economics has been continuous since then. Stephen was also involved in politics for more than 25 years. He has co-authored two books, the last one detailing proposals for a shift in tax from land and capital to natural resources rental collection.  In South Africa it really could work.  See Stephen in the UTube clip below.



Starting a Conversation

Most taxes should be abolished: Stephen Meintjes
Stephen Meintjes on SA news

Stephen Meintjes, Johannesburg


Everyone in South Africa knows that "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity" - it's in the Preamble to our Constitution. But we are very far from agreement on how deal with this fact.  Yet it is continually at the forefront of national consciousness with land invasions, endless debates about land reform, land restitution and demands for land nationalisation.


Miracle needed

Back in the Sixties the challenge was very different: how to get rid of the Nationalists and apartheid and it took decades of political effort from many players.  In the late Eighties, we realised that, even if the political and constitutional miracle (which duly materialised in 1994) were to occur, it would founder on the rocks of unemployment and investor aversion aggravated by populist demands, swingeing taxation and huge imbalances in land ownership.  

So it dawned on Michael Jacques, a long-standing School student of economics and Sanskrit, and myself, that we needed yet another miracle. Only this time it had to be economic. Moreover we also realised that all those years of economics courses meant we were sitting on a powder keg of knowledge.  So Michael and I wrote The Trial of Chaka Dlamini - an Economic Scenario for the New South Africa.  It was published in 1990, not long after release of Nelson Mandela and the commencement of four long years of constitutional negotiations. These culminated in that marvellous day in April 1994 when millions of South Africans queued peacefully, black and white together, in our first ever fully democratic elections.


That same day, the man who had been Minister of Finance the day before came to my home where Michael and I presented to him the proposals in The Trial of Chaka. The proposals were, of course, designed to boost South Africa's ability to create the millions of jobs it needed, via a shift from taxation of labour and capital to collection instead of land rentals. Afterwards he stood on the verandah, looked at the trees and said 'everything you chaps say is true but I think we need some kind of sales tax so all our compatriots can contribute to the Exchequer'.  


Time of change

Despite the fact that Mandela reappointed him a week later and we had given presentations to the ANC and other parties, what we thought would be a no-brainer became a non-starter.  It was a time of massive change generally and therefore understandable that our ideas were lost in the general noise. Nevertheless, albeit disappointed, we continued to promote these concepts to the best of our ability.  Around this time I was invited to join the ANC (African National Congress), but I declined as we thought it best to promote these concepts on a non-partisan basis.


Towards the end of Mandela's term, however, the ANC's underlying agenda began to unfold.  Black Economic Empowerment, with which everyone agreed in principle, steadily degenerated into crony deployment and corruption.  BEE included the placing, throughout the public sector, of party cronies who were usually inexperienced and often not suitably qualified. In many cases they were corrupt, leading to massive wastage of taxpayers' money on rigged tenders often awarded to incompetent contractors who simply subcontracted to those who could actually do the work.  This has resulted in elite enrichment, widespread dysfunctionality in the public sector and one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.


Practical proposals

Meanwhile, by the mid-Noughties, with our representations to Treasury having met with minimal acceptance, we had decided to return to the drawing board.  The Trial of Chaka had been set in the (black) townships of the late apartheid era with dialogues between a (black) Socrates and the township youth and was focussed on explaining the principles to the lay reader.  But we realised we needed to go a lot further with practical proposals to convince all those who had said it was great idea but would never work in practice. This included policy makers, economists and business people as well as ordinary folk. Given the huge aversion amongst people to reading anything to do with economics, this was always going to be difficult. Nevertheless, despite the need to be a little technical every now and again (these bits can easily be skipped) initial feedback is encouraging. [See Stephen's second book, Our Land, Our Rent, Our Jobs.]



For the uninitiated, rent can be said to be the difference between what can be produced on the least productive piece of land in use and all others, given equal effort and skill (or inputs of labour and capital). This difference is reflected in land values, all of which are due to the state which gives security of tenure without which landowners would not be able to enjoy the natural and man made advantages of their sites.

With low rainfall, only 16% of the surface area of South Africa is arable and this results in huge differences in land values with values in the prime urban land being up to a million times more valuable than grazing land in some areas of the Northern Cape. In broad terms therefore one could say that nearly half the land is marginal or near-marginal.



Now the trouble with our tax system, like many others, is that it vastly under-recovers rent from prime sites and attempts to over-recover from marginal sites. As foreshadowed earlier, the ANC duly ramped up indirect taxation in a big way, thereby decimating economic activity in the former (tribal) homelands and causing a massive influx into the already overcrowded cities.  Meanwhile businesses in the urban centres continue to enjoy the benefit of public infrastructure such as toll roads and, in Gauteng Province, the upmarket commuter rail link between Pretoria, Johannesburg and the international airport as evidenced by tall office towers sprouting up around the GauTrain stations.


It could succeed in South Africa

All of this could have been avoided if South Africa had opted for government paid for by collecting the rents it in effect creates - instead of taxing labour and capital for working and investing. This can of course still be done and the purpose of the book is to start a national conversation as to how. To this end we shall endeavour to present to the major political parties.

Why would this succeed in South Africa? In many ways we are a microcosm of the world with developed and developing components. We have a proven capacity to implement sophisticated revenue collection systems and, unlike the English after the Conquest, the majority are not going to tolerate the status quo. They want "their" land back! Since there are 52 million South Africans and 122 million, mostly dry, hectares, there is no way a physical distribution can be made.  This book shows how each and every South African can get full value for all of his or her land.

After a promising start prior to the holiday season we are now about to ramp up our media campaign again and reach out to the politicians and others. The intention is nothing less than to ignite a nationwide conversation as to how best to do it - for only then will it work.


Email Stephen: stephenmeintjes


Lilly is a Newly Qualified Teacher, in her first year of teaching English at a state secondary school.  As an NQT she has to fill in observations, and report regularly to her mentor. Lilly's parents introduced her to the School, and to the practice of meditation at the age of 16.  


Benefits of Meditation

Lilly Wyatt, London 


The secondary school where I teach used to have a bad reputation.  It has recently improved but some behaviour is still very difficult.  There are students who push desks over, and lots of swearing; it's a challenging environment.  I was worried about not being able to handle this; I hadn't been exposed to this previously. 


At the beginning of term I wasn't meditating and wasn't going to group consistently.  I would go home from work and think about school - negative thoughts all evening and nightmares at night.  Then I'd wake up and live the nightmare.  I had no time for friends and family; even when I did, my mind was full of school and all its difficulties.


The term was so challenging, I thought I wouldn't be able to survive the year in teaching if I didn't have some philosophical outlet or time to myself.  From the start of the year, I got so so tired.


Group and meditation

Through my mother's intervention, I was invited to join a group again.  I started that night.  It really made a difference to how I managed teaching.  When I started going to group, it was the only night I would keep free.  By giving myself time to attend the group, I stopped being so obsessed with school.  Even at weekends I'd work so that I could have that time free for the group.  It made that time at group really special.  This has pushed me into practising during the day as well.


Then the group residential week came up at half term.  I looked forward to it.  It was just as good as my expectations. And we had discussions about meditation as well as individual tutorials.  So I resolved to meditate from then on.  At first, although I thought my timetable was inflexible (I could be working all night) still I could make that time for meditation.  I found that if I didn't meditate, I got just too exhausted.  It was amazing, very useful - even though I wasn't meditating very well.


It isn't always easy: often meditation is a time when thoughts come up, yet there are moments when I just sit still.  Afterwards I feel more relaxed.  In lessons, I practise coming back to myself.  I need to do this.  It's amazing how much the children's mood reflects my own.  If I am out of touch they are too.  Just being still for a moment every lesson, I can find that unity in teaching the class; it is a practical method.  My mentor also recommended some meditative techniques.  So I try some with the class - they mess about - but afterwards, they say it changed the lesson.  That makes me think how practical it is.


We've got children with ADHD, one whose mother died, one whose uncle comes into see me every two weeks, to see how the boy is doing.  He's on report - gets checked every 10 minutes for paying attention.  One boy is always getting into fights, but once you know their home situations, you just love them. 

The work itself, not thinking about school, spotting negative thought patterns, saying 'Not now' - that's all become a lot easier.  It's hard to measure the effect of meditation.  But people have asked me, how do you look so happy, or do you not look tired?  I haven't been ill all term, and I normally get ill.  Must be meditation!

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Margaret is a student in Brisbane and a full-time artist, currently represented by the Lethbridge Gallery. She has a love of all kinds of realism, and in the classical methods of painting using layers of glazing.  Here she tells the story of how she came to art, Eastern cultures and the School.

 Life Journey with Art

inglesMargaret Ingles, Brisbane

These days, in my studio, cups of tea go cold and unsipped, while hours are swallowed whole, as I work on a canvas. On days likethis, I feel content. There is a blurring between inner and outer worlds, a connection, and this more often than not translates into a successful painting day. I have always thought it paradoxical that to find oneself, one must lose oneself in the process, and painting for me is a good example of that. I think anyone in the arts absorbed in their craft, anyone doing what they love, will say the same.


School practices

On the days when I come to the easel with an agitated or scattered mind, and there are many, I find the mindfulness techniques and tools of philosophy very useful. I will often begin with the pause, to connect to the stillness, before I pick up a brush. If the turmoil returns during painting, if something isn't going well for example, and the anxiety returns, I cast my attention back to the working surface, to the instrument being used and the point at which the two meet. This simple act of mindful attention has proved effective time and again.


Philosophy hasn't only informed the process of painting for me, but in the last few years the theme of my work as well. I have tried to create "visual haikus" where figures - whether soaring effortlessly in space or buoyed weightlessly by water - avail themselves of the freedom available to them in the present moment, liberated from past and future concerns. Water, fluid and flexible, and sky, spacious and vast, provide perfect metaphors for exploring these ideas.


I have been drawing and painting my whole life. As a child, the walls of my bedroom were always plastered with pictures of my family and the dog, or innumerable perspectives of my two feet and left hand. When I was 12 my mother bought me a book of famous paintings, and oil paints, brushes and medium. I would sit under a tree in the backyard and attempt to copy a still life of Cezanne, or a Van Gogh sky.



Fine motor skills proved handy in perfecting my mother's signature to replicate on absent notes, for one occasion when I had something better to do than attend school! In my second last year of school I stayed home for 3 days to read Irving Stone's "The Agony and the Ecstasy" about the life of Michelangelo. It brought to life the artistic process and the artist.  

Each morning I left the 1970's for late 15th and 16th century Italy, to scour the Carrara quarries with Michelangelo in search of the highest quality marble, or to stand just behind his shoulder, watching him chip away at the stone that would liberate the form inside. I could see the marble dust dancing in the light, settling like snow on everything, and muscle and sinew moving beneath the artist's skin. I fell in love with his mastery and vision, his passion and discipline, and was enthralled at his absorption in the act of creation.


I also fell in love with the Renaissance, and its new artistic rhetoric of realism, with its revival of Ancient Greek philosophy and the classical values of harmony, proportion and symmetry. The "illusion of reality" became the main aim for Renaissance artists.  A keen sense of observation of both inner life and the external world was cultivated. Renewed and refined rules of linear perspective, new techniques for creating light and shade and more realistic colour, combined with efforts to depict the subjective state of mind of the subject were created in order to engage the emotional world of the beholder. To this day I love realism, in all its forms. I have explored other styles but I can't seem to move past my love of this genre. Perhaps it is the child in me, but achieving this illusion of reality always comes close to magic.


Life's events

Shortly after I left school, my father died and not long after that, my mother. Between these two life-changing events, I met my soul mate, moved to Tasmania, finished a degree, and had my first child. A few years later my second child was born. When I was 28 our small family moved to Kathmandu, Nepal, as my husband had been offered a two-year work contract.


Two years turned into 25 years, as we continued to live and work in various countries in the Asian region. These were exhilarating and mind-opening years, although always challenging in the beginning as we navigated our way around the unfamiliar territory of each new culture. We also had a 6-month stay in Rome, travelling around the country whenever possible, so I was able to immerse myself in the art I loved and revitalise enthusiasm for my own practice. This contract had been a delicious synchronicity as I had just completed a graduate diploma in the visual arts with a major in Renaissance art.


Meeting the School

An expat life rewarded me with the space to redefine myself many times; there was great freedom in that. I also had opportunities to study and practise the Eastern philosophy of different traditions in their spiritual homes. I finally got my full-time art practice off the ground 10 years ago whilst living in Thailand.  Around the same time I met a tutor from the Auckland School of Philosophy who was also living in Bangkok. She set up a small group and I completed the first few terms with her, before she had to return to New Zealand.  Encompassing a wide range of philosophical and spiritual teachings from both East and West, it appealed to the diversity of my background experiences.


I returned to Australia a few years ago. In many ways the transition to my home country proved more difficult than any of the other moves we had made. However, establishing my art practice, and returning to the philosophy school after a decade-long hiatus, was both grounding and comforting.


Sometimes I think that life is very much like a painting. You start with an idea of where you want to go and end up somewhere totally different. Steve Jobs said it best: "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards... believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference."

Margaret's website: MargaretIngles

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Lily is the labrador puppy who lives with Donald Lambie, the leader of the School and his wife, the editor. Many people asked for more from Lily, so here she is again.

Letter from Lily

That's me posing in the frost with my super duper LED collar and ball in the dawn twilight.  I'm so technologically advanced, I'd fit right in at Silicone Valley.  I bet you don't know what LED stands for:  Lily, the Exceptional Dog. 

I'd like to say a word or two about the weather.  It's February.  What does that mean?  Mud.  You people seem to have an irrational prejudice against lovely sticky mud.  I just don't get it.  I go running in the park, and hey presto, I'm a brown Labrador.  Then I come in to lie on my sofa.  (It's my sofa as they had to buy another one when I came along - we couldn't all three fit on MY sofa.)  So what's the problem?  Isn't that exactly what a sofa is for, a comfy, soft, warm, lovely dry bed?  Hugs and wags,

Love from Lily


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