Picture: 12RF/SERGEY NAZAROV
Picture: 12RF/SERGEY NAZAROV

Is there anything undesirable in SA that cannot be blamed on apartheid (“Why the roots of grass go way deep”, August 13)?

It is certainly nonsensical that lawn grass, possibly humanity’s largest crop, is tended with such care and expense only for the harvest to be thrown away. Yet Jonathan Cane’s comparison between SA’s urban settlements suggests there is something wrong about “white” areas having lawns when “black” ones don’t.

The reason is cultural, but not of the nature Cane describes. Lawns represent a deep-seated culturally Christian obsession with heaven and paradise. The Guns ’n Roses heavy-metal group summed it up nicely in the song Paradise City:where the grass is green and the girls are pretty”.

Google the number of companies called Paradise Lawns. This obsession comes from the Garden of Eden, and before that from Persian walled gardens such as Pasargadae. 

Images of lawns, trees, swimming pools and pretty women are still used to sell tourist resorts, only today you don’t get there after a virtuous life. Annual holidays to such establishments are open to anyone with the necessary cash.

Incidentally, that’s also why cemeteries tend to have so much grass. Americans, especially those in Chicago, whom Ernest Hemingway described as having wide lawns and narrow minds, still have their celestial fitness assessed by the state of their sward.

This could all be just a quaint cultural eccentricity if building heaven on earth, or as the British sing, building Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land, hadn’t become so dangerous to humankind. For what is “progress” but a ceaseless scramble to build an earthly heaven?

While the lucky few achieve a lawned existence, the majority don’t.

Meanwhile, anthropomorphic carbon emissions are causing climate change and the oceans’ fish have been tastefully replaced with plastic bags.

James Cunningham
Camps Bay