Actually, this has nothing to do with music. It would have been great, and I wish it could have been, but there’s nothing about music here at all. Not a bit. My marginal work opportunities and the fact that I can’t get a ‘proper job’ anymore have meant that I have not been able to buy music, and all those hash tags from the end of 2015 onwards, the excessive embracing of our prominent politicians’ notions of wisdom by some of the general public, and the accompanying need to broadcast this special ignorance affected me in a violatory fashion – curtailing that wish. Thanks. #Thanksalot.
Usually the sharing my opinions on political matters and my views on stupidity in general are confined to my physical surroundings, and to moments when it is of specific relevance.
Maybe the fact that I am eventually throwing this out onto the side-walk is somehow relevant.
I know that sharing opinion from behind a computer screen like this risks supplying one with false bravado and falser intelligence, but don’t worry – I’m here, and I’m looking you straight it the eyes.
Mind the puddle.
Back in 1994 I figured that – if everything went according to plan – we (South Africans in South Africa) would be able to feel a sense of stability or normality in about 50-odd years time. ‘Stability or normality’ meaning the healing of the great divide initiated by Apartheid governments and the creation of a positive broader community. ‘50-odd years’ meaning 1994+50… Thus 2044. Two Thousand and Fourty-Four. Oh, and ‘if everything went to plan’ meaning the ‘new government’ leading a program of equalization, upliftment, empowerment, education and the eradication of poverty. As promised.
Who remembers The Freedom Charter? (here you go, click)
Time doesn’t pause for us to reconsider. It’s the 22nd-ish year since all the Rainbow Nation stuff happened, and according to that Oxfam report on inequality (here), the two richest people in South Africa have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 26.5 million (out of 53 million). For us normal people, this equation could be hard to comprehend, so it might be easy to brush it off with the ‘they worked for it’ excuse. Barely. No-one works for that amount of money. No-one has the right to own so many assets while people go hungry, un-sheltered and disempowered. No-one owns the earth, and no-one can claim more rights to its use than anyone else. The earth has the ability to provide for everything we need. It’s like magic. But in a world where we are made to equate the value of everything to a number creatively printed on a piece of (usually) wash-proof paper, practically printed at will by those who run the scheme – we are held ransom to a system that does not serve us. We are held to ransom by having to pay, somehow, for what should be our first basic rights for existing on this earth. Space to live. Food to eat. When people are allowed to stake claims on these, they tend to grab as much as they can, and as an extended problem – much of this goes to waste in the interest of hoarding. I don’t have an as big a concern with people who make money from non-essentials. Things you don’t need to get by. It’s 2016, and we’re locked into a system of monetization. I get it. But if you’re selling food, clothing or shelter, and exploiting natural resources and sitting pretty – you’re a thief.
As things are, we live as followers or providers. Unfortunately the role of the provider has morphed into a position of power and control instead of one of service and management in most cases. Too often, the rules are written by those who have the largest stash of creatively printed paper.
I’m in two minds about people’s ability to change. Essentially, I believe your character doesn’t change. But I do believe that your actions can change. In the broader context of community – actions are what define how things function. When a community functions well, individual character either becomes irrelevant or an asset within that community. In some forms of engineering – the tension that is created by opposing forces gives a structure its strength. If we can (or are required to) commit to functioning as a community – our individual differences are of less consequence within that community than when we first try to get everyone to agree on agreeing about everything before we take action.
The Fees Must Fall movement showed what can be done when people rally around a single issue. To me it was the most significant act of the mobilization of people power since what happened in South Africa during the run-up to 1994, and it felt as inspiring. Sadly this movement has since opted for a spirit of exclusionism – not unlike government – indicating that that initial victory was more of a co-incidence than anything else – most likely driven by a larger sense of dissatisfaction with the structures of power.
You’re totally awesome, but if everyone was just like you, your appeal is neutralized and all of a sudden – you’re just not that special anymore.
No-one has ever achieved constructive co-operation from anyone else by poking them in the eye. When you want to achieve something (useful), getting people on your side is always a great idea. When everyone has the same problem and some people approach the solution differently to how you think is best, nitpicking about their motives or the validity of their actions is silly. The more people there are trying to find solutions to a common problem – the better, so be supportive. Get involved. With some luck – you’ll have their support when you try to do it your way. If you discredit someone who is trying to achieve the same objective as you are – you undermine yourself, and you risk creating divisions that ultimately weaken your ability to achieve your goal. For matters of national significance, unified mass action is preferable, but until a movement gains enough of its own momentum – without destructive divisions – don’t be too precious about the process.
We can only solve our problems with education from the ground up. By the time you get to University – you’re part of the privileged minority. A functional secondary education would have taught you that.
Don’t let your ego spoil your day.
I initially wrote a long preamble to this one, but opted to rather just get to the point:
Cecil John Rhodes was a lunatic. His was convinced that his main purpose in life was the acquisition of land for his homeland – The Queen of Colonialism: England. He was a machine for colonialism. He was dilly in the head.
It’s the 21st Century, and the only actual effect Rhodes has on us is the advancement of learning. Check it. Go. Then come and tell me how Rhodes is undermining your freedom, your integrity, your self-worth or your place of safety. I’ll wait here for you. And when you come back with said information, I’ll be second in line advocating the use of valuable resources in the removal of part of our story – our history – for the sake of your (until then) opportunistic diversions. You can’t be removing symbols of a history while you benefit from the only tangible remnants of that symbol. That is hypocrisy at its finest. It’s wrong. Inventing such issues is irrelevant to any constructive process. Try not to be an idiot most of the time.
A similar story for the use of Afrikaans in institutions of learning (or wherever). Seriously folks. Afrikaans doesn’t need kid gloves or special attention, but it is one of our most unique historical and cultural assets as South Africans. Our very own, commonly used and frequently understood language. Created and home grown by South Africans. It also happens to be one of our 11 Official Languages. We can’t claim to be proudly South African if we can’t embrace uniquely South African things. Moenie ‘n doos wees nie. Wees lekker.
There are more valid symbols of oppression than Rhodes and Afrikaans, but why not rather find guides and role models instead. Thomas Sankara. Muammar Gaddafi. Both were murdered because of their disdain for being controlled by outside (non-African) forces and the colonizing power of debt. But both were set on the advancement of the people they led. It seems we’ve forgotten about Nelson Mandela. Negotiator of a peaceful revolution and advocator of learning, understanding, forgiveness and moving on – together. Attempts to discredit his worth now are opportunistic and disgusting. Do you really need to see a total collapse before you build something new? More war, anyone? Anyone?? Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before becoming our president. Clearly, everything he did was not enough for us to get over our pettiness. We’ll see how much time Dr Magufuli is given to serve his people. Hopefully long enough for others to learn from him and entrench a culture of positive government in future leaders.
Real leadership requires real service, which in turn requires real bravery – particularly because it is so often met with the restraining pressure from international loan-sharks, the absence of gratitude, with betrayal, and, you know… death.
Up for that reality yet?
Don’t let your progressiveness hold you back…
(There is much to be considered regarding the horror of apartheid and its effects on people, but apartheid isn’t actually what I’m writing about now, so if you want to – go and feed the horse – just don’t get on it… If you’re on it already – get off it and take a walk. Some fresh air will do you good.)
Apartheid was not nice. It was bad. Obvious damage caused by apartheid is that it left most South Africans without opportunities. Neglected education and insufficient social structure (i.e. housing, healthcare and security) created a nation with little hope for a future. If people aren’t enabled and empowered sufficiently to manage a country – there is not much hope for the future of that country.
Apartheid also caused damage to those who were supposed to benefit from it. The concept of being better than someone else was engraved in people’s everyday existence. Better because of the tone of your skin. No other reason. Just skin-tone. I sometimes wonder whether the psychological effect of this ‘miracle’ is somewhat glanced over. Like I’m doing now, just more so.
Oh, wait. While I’m here I might as well get stuck in…
I think it’s pretty safe to say that the intention of apartheid was that ‘white’ people would benefit, and many did. But it is as valid to assume that all ‘white’ people benefitted from apartheid, or are racist, or whatever, as it is to claim that all ‘black’ people are disenfranchised, or stupid, or whatever. The systematic and inherent indoctrination of apartheid policy was not as easy to escape as one would like to think – for anybody. The militarisation of ‘white’ schools made young boys (and girls) believe that there was actually an enemy. One that was controlled by Satan, who, through the Communists in Russia, would use black people to kill all white people, given half a chance. This evil had already taken over Angola, so Namibia (then South West Africa) was being used as a buffer zone to keep Satan at bay. Remember, also, that religion was part of this indoctrination, so the fear of Satan and the subversive ways in which his work was conducted was very real. White folk, after all, were God’s chosen race, and had to be defended at all cost.
Compulsory military service followed once you escaped school. Many young boys’ lives were destroyed by these allusions and the enforcement of their defence. Young South African boys. Most of those boys have since become men, and it’s not that easy to counter such effective indoctrination. Any ‘previously disadvantaged’ person who still feels disgruntled will eventually understand this. I hope.
I think it is important to understand any situation as a whole before making sweeping generalizations. If you don’t, you end up grabbing at any straws that seem to suit your storyline. Kinda self-fulfilling, innit?
But wait, there’s more. (You want to check on the horse…?)
Apartheid also created divisions between people that had no need for it, and that made no sense. It created a hugely disproportionate distribution of opportunity. It robbed everyone of opportunities to learn – about South Africans. I have on various occasions been confronted with the notion that ‘white’ people just got whatever they wanted – without having to work, or pay for anything. (If you also happen to believe this, it isn’t true – so re-program.) Dismantling the effect of Apartheid will take as much effort and commitment as it took to instil, if not more. Since 1994, government’s only task should have been to resolve this mess. It hasn’t done so, and I don’t believe it has really tried.
But let’s not re-hash and finger-point at or negate the failures in our history and expect things to change. Let us rather work to create the world in which we’d like to live, and hold those responsible for providing the structures of change accountable. We have a constitution that supports us, but we have to actively keep making the right decisions. We have to take responsibility for the community we live in, in order for it to function well.
So back to now. Sort of.
South Africans, generally, have made much progress in terms of forming a new broader community. If you don’t think so – take a time travel trip back to the anywhere between Verwoerd (or earlier, if you want) and the early Nineties. If you weren’t around then you wouldn’t know, so put your hand down.
Life is very different now. On a day-to-day basis, the middle-ground has, to a very significant degree, integrated. My cautiousness regarding the police is different. More recently, they are again being used by government as a buffer between them and the poor, but it’s much easier to recognize and to make a noise about now. The home-ground military threat has mostly faded. I sometimes still wonder if their records from the Eighties still exist, and what they say of some of us. We now have the freedom to criticize the government – with little personal risk. Seemingly, too, with less effect. I’m no longer cautious of spies, and of how their reporting will impact on my friends, or me. Security police? Military police?
Our government is currently so far removed from the people that we have gained a lot of freedoms. But the distance is also evident in the government’s failure to deliver on many of its promises, which makes it treacherous. While billions of Rands are being squandered and lost through mismanagement, self-enrichment and fraud – there is no-one else to blame but the government. Not the National Party government. Not Apartheid. Not ‘White People’. The Government. This one. The one we have in 2016.
The benefit of empowering people – especially to any government – is that you don’t have to carry them (or eventually feel their wrath).
In the short term, lack of governance serves people in positions of power. If you don’t educate and empower people – they’re easier to manipulate for your gain. This self-service never lasts forever, though, so building yourself a town and amassing ‘wealth’ is a clever thing to do. It’s clever because the friends you benefitted in your schemes to prop you up will disappear with speed when your power crumbles. It’s clever because you might have a town to go to when you’ve spent sufficient time in the naughty corner for being a bully and stealing people’s stuff. It’s clever, but not wise.
Our first president showed us how things should be done. Engage. Make friends. Learn stuff. Show gratitude. Look after the children. Dance.
Our second president seemed to take flight, but was actually building important relationships across the globe. Unfortunately he wasn’t keeping an eye on the people he had entrusted the day-to-day stuff to. So while he was away, they made flippy floppy, and when he came back home one day – there was a thorn on his seat.
Promise became pretence. Liberation would become obliteration. Leadership would change into a dealership.
I’ve voted twice in my life. Once was to do my part in ensuring change. Once was to try and avert disaster. I’d say my first vote was the more successful of the two. (I was in the middle of nowhere on the third occasion I wanted to vote, so didn’t.)
I’ve never felt comfortable about our current president. Ever. Something just wasn’t right from the first time I became aware of him, and all along his actions proved me right. There’s continual reference to Nkandla, and with good cause. It sums up a lot of problematic issues with our current government. ‘Together we can do more’. For who?
I’m sorry. I’m sorry Mr Zuma hasn’t managed to change my mind about him. I’m sorry that he hasn’t taken the opportunity he has to be a great leader. Or even just a leader. I wonder – in his mind, whatever happened to the poor? Have they evaporated? Does he see the poor as people, or as a means to an end? Does he see them at all? Does he think that the more he blames anyone else for our problems while claiming that he is working at making South Africa a better place (for all), that we’ll eventually just believe him? (And I know – it isn’t just the poor. The longer this carries on – the more people are affected.)
Success in life is not a competition – it’s a struggle. You only win when everyone comes out on top with you.
I’m not as concerned about the fact that Mr Zuma missed out on school as I am about the fact that he missed out on being a credible leader. Life sometimes takes our hope, dreams and opportunities from us, but sometimes it gives us opportunities, hope and if we’re lucky – it gives us things to dream about. We should take the opportunities given to us. Mr Zuma still has the power to give people who have hope’s dreams come true. How many people could have received basic facilities for the price-tag on those home improvements? How many people are still left with nothing more than hope because of that self-enrichment? When you are desperate, you don’t dream.