Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Can we learn how to live together? It seems not.

Whether is it Syria or the carnage in Northern Nigeria and Mali, it seems, we haven't yet learnt how to live together, despite our differences. Martin Luther King (Jnr) is often qouted to have said,

"We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools. This is the great challenge of the hour. This is true of individuals. It is true of nations. No individual can live alone. No nation can live alone." (December 18, 1963)

He made this statement in the context of reflecting on the scientific achievements, in the USA and the evolving one-ness of the globe, He refers in this speech to "an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny..."  Even though King was a fervant believer in the American Dream, he made a critical point about our common humanity and common destiny in dealing with the challenges we face.

I wonder though why we have not been able to learn to live together. Perhaps one of the reasons might be a blind belief in the myth that unity, asumes uniformity and that "otherness" somehow defile or compromise my way of living or believing. One of the fundamental tennets of colonial thinking is the notion of sharp distinctions and opposites... which relates to wrong or right, good or evil, pure and dirty, etc.  Have we been able to overcome this kind of thinking, as we moved towards political "independance"?

It seems that the imagination and ways of colonial mentality remained intact, even when black bodies now sit in the chambers of parliament or drive the plush German sedans (made for politicians)? In terms of this logic it therefore makes perfect sense when the current South African regime use the same laws against mineworkers protesting for equality in the workplace, that the Nationalist government wrote back in the days. It make sense when those who spread the carnage in the name of God, simply use the same weapons bought on the international arms market, enriching the usual suspects, and simply baptise it with some holy religious water.

Somehow we have to transcend this imagination. Perhaps the notion of "learning" by King, is not helpfull. How do we reshape a new imagination, core worldviews and go deeper then political expediency and learning- perhaps that's the burning bush.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Saved by questions..

Who am I; where do I come from? On the surface of it, these questions seems trivial; the answers obvious. Yet, these questions remain critical for us to find direction in life, but also, for trying to decide what and who we concern ourselves with. We often forget these.

Yet, fighting with these words, which form questions, which shake our worlds, can save us. Think back of important decisions you had to make. A key consideration perhaps was your family, or some-one close, right? Look close and ask the question: who is that person? Why is that person so important in my life? What  does it say about how I think of myself.

Today, I am reminded that there are bigger powers at play of which we are powerless. So, we have so much to learn, still and are so small in the bigger scheme of things. It reminds me of some other immortal words.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers; the moon and the stars, which you have set in place; what is a human being that you are mindful of us... 

I thank God for constantly reminding me, today of who I am, where I come from, which community I am with and who I am ultimately accountable to... Saving grace. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I, You, And...

I wanted a job, And you gave me a bright, blue T-shirt 
I wanted dignity, And you gave me a conference 
I wanted to be some-one special, And you gave me a rock to throw at others....
I'm still without a job, dignity, and still angry... 
And you?
You wear the best designer clothes, crocodile skin shoes; 
You talk about me at your conferences
You condemn in lofty words, my 'violence'...
And I?
I'm still without a job, dignity and still angry...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Rot Runs Deeper. Anti-Racism and Social Media.

What happened last week with...err... sorry I cannot recall her name (she's a model for FHM) should be a reminder to all of us: what happens on Twitter, doesn't stay on Twitter.  Of course, we sometimes tweet out in anger or let something silly slip out, but still, Twitter is not a confessional booth, nor the psychologist's couch. Perhaps, I'm just reminding myself of this, but it is helpful for all of us to mind what we tweet, or Facebook.

That was just a reminder.

Let me go further, if I may. The issue raised last week (again) is however not merely about how to manage our social media presence better, i.e. to emphasis better tweeting. The emphasis for me and today, was on the first part - to Mind. Most of the tweeps who lashed out against, 'what's-her-name-again?', did it with language and later, jokes that I would not consider Twitter manners, either. ( I sound very sanctimonious here, I know, by the way, I like the sound of that word, sanctimonious.) This issue is the content of her tweet and (at least for me) the fact that its not the first time that she tweeted such racist bile. This is clearly some-one who have no qualms about racist slurs and feels, as a 20 year-old, its OK. Question: Did her peers, friends, family and the people she worked with, tried to correct her and warned her about this? Which brings me to the next concern.

I wouldn't want us simply, to focus on this relatively unknown individual. The issue is: the rot runs deeper. It is more widespread. If anything, this model amongst us, reveals a rotten core, at the heart of a large chunk of the so-called 'born-frees' who are amongst us. Moreso, and here Jonathan Jansen helps us, this incident gives us a glimpse into the private, unexamined practices within social networks like family, school and within institutions which evidently continue to reproduce a new breed of racists. This new breed, make no mistake, is sophisticated, media savvy, blending up there amongst the cream of the crop. They are (almost) just like all of us. However, in unsuspecting moments of weakness, they pop out showing their true colours. Yet, very swiftly, they are dealt with-often by the same system which produced them. My concern therefore, is not primarily with those who slip through the cracks in the system and who show up unannounced and who often in a drunken stupor or fit of rage, explodes. My concern is with the herd- those who stay in the crowd, who populate Facebook groups and who support Steve Hofmeyer and his ilk, who consistently attack every institution and attempt to eradicate racism.  Of course, I am not saying that this new face of racism are only the usual lot, meaning the khaki-clad, AWB members (I don't think this FHM Mampara of the Day is, or at least she does not fit the stereotype of the Afriforum skouspel). Most of these closet racists are integrated in our society, rubbing shoulders at our workfunctions and they've simply learnt the fine art of playing the system. I would suggest that we should not be too worried about a FHM model who have let it hang out, we should rather be concerned, very concerned, about what is not said in public...

Another point, which I wont labour for now is simply this. Part of the reason why SA cannot root out this reproduction of new generations of racists, is because our popular definitions and reactions towards racism, at least as it manifest on an emotional level, which is important as it moves us towards outrage and action, is still confined to individual acts and words of a racist nature. Don't get me wrong, we must raise our voices against FHM models for using that dirty k-word, but is that all we get de-bliksem in when it comes to racism? What about the continued violent, racist nature of poverty and how black children continue to be slaughtered in our educational institutions? What about the managers of schools, who downplay the skewed nature of achievement and the racist bullying, as 'ag, you know mos.... children'. What about the simmering hatred against those other black Africans, that exploded in our faces on that bloody month of May 2008? I think you get my point. To continue to focus on these individual acts, may lead to a softening of our anger against the real forms that racism is entrenched in, i.e. our institutions and social practices today and that I missed in most of our tweets .... Perhaps we don't want to think too deep before we tweet or Facebook; perhaps we think Facebook, Twitterville or the Twitterverse is not the space for that kind of engagement. In order for Twitter and Facebook to really play a meaningful role in combating racism, to play a critical role of for us to craft an anti-racism strategy for social media, it would be for us to go beyond mere reactionary responses to the models FHM give us, it is to mind what we tweet. An anti-racism strategy which want to uproot the rot, will have to cut deeper. That's how we can combat the real evil.... at work.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Horrified by torture and rape of 8 year old, CYM speaks out.

I hear this morning on MetroFM, of the horror story of a 8 year old girl, still in her school uniform, who was raped and mutilated, somewhere in Kwazulu Natal. One of her eyes was gouged out and, with blood streaming down her face, she had to crawl home after the brutal attack. The alleged perpetrator, was a 15 year old boy. Apparantly the granny turned her grandson in this morning, stating that he is a 'normal' boy. How can one simply turn  your head and walk away, from this? 

Honestly, I don't know what to say.  Let me rather post the strong statement from the Christian Youth Ministry (CYM):

 The Christian Youth Ministry is extremely horrified and shocked by the ever increasing inhumane and barbaric acts perpetrated by some males in South Africa, as evidenced by the gang rape of a 17-year old girl by seven males in Soweto and other areas in the country. We call upon all South African men, women, youth and children to outrightly reject any forms of violence by continuing to expose these acts.
Rape and violence against women is a social time bomb in South Africa and a country plan is urgently needed to address sexual violence.
Christian Youth Ministry is deeply disappointed and worried by unabating high levels of rape and violence against women in South Africa.
The sector also seeks to clearly state that sexual violence can only be stemmed by a strong and effective criminal justice system supported by social and community partnership that

  • Educates young boys and men about human and women’s rights,
  • Build Strong Moral values
  • Builds respect and promote humanity and gender equality,
  • Actively opposes violence and sexual violence against women.

Christian Youth Ministry calls on all men and boys of South Africa, especially prominent leaders, to be part of the fight against this horrific scourge by challenging social norms that allows such acts to continue. We call on all men and boys to lead by example and reject the objectification of women and girls and expose violence against women and children in their communities and families.
We welcome the arrest of of the perpetrators who gang raped a 17 year old girl in Soweto recently and the arrest of the men who brutally killed Miss Pretty Nontombi Jonginamba (14) in her mother's home in Gugulethu last week, and also a horror story of a 8 year old, who was raped and her one eye brutally gouged out by a 15 year old boy. She had to crawl home and now in hospital in a serious condition. It happened in Mvuthini in the area of Gingindlovu, KZN we demand for swift justice against the perpetrators.
We call upon all the Christian Youth members to say enough is enough and take a pro-active approach in dealing with crime in our society.
We also send our regrets to the families of women and girls who have been brutally murdered, raped and sexually assaulted in our communities.
Statement for Christian Youth Ministry

Mdlayedwa Mthombeni
General Scretary
Christian Youth Ministry
Uniting Reformed Church Southern Africa,

073 353 8928

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Noble intentions or Ironic Trickery? In dialogue with Naudé

I'm often astounded by the confusion of knowledge that people display in public as the gospel truth. It either shows a genuine ignorance with noble intentions, or a conscious attempt at trying to fool us, with interesting consequences. I seriously don't know which one it is. The most recent example is today's column in Die Beeld, by Charl-Pierre Naudé on Postcolonial Studies.

Like I said, perhaps I don't know what is happening here. After-all, Naudé is an award-winning Afrikaans poet, and he is suppose to be amongst the cream of the crop. It is of course possible that I simply don't get him, given my dismal history with Afrikaans in school. Whilst I loved my teachers (most of them), my brew of coloured Afrikaans was obviously not the 'taal' of the 'Regte Afrikaners' and so, Afrikaans poetry and poets have never captured my imagination. Bob Marley, Adam Small and GrandMaster Funk did. So, yes, I am disadvantaged and please feel sorry for my loss. Funny thing is through, I don't feel any sense of loss yet. Perhaps this is why I don't understand the lot of liberal Afrikaners, who do poetry, throw profanities at their NG Calvinism and by that feels themselves liberated from the shackles of the past. (I have to admit though, I was/am a big fan of Andre P Brink, but that's beside the point).

For me, Naude misses the point about postcolonial theory. He seemingly confuse postcolonial theory with the kind of politics and rhetoric of the ANC. That's is why he only quotes, Jeff Radebe in his reference to 'transformation'. Further, the kind of images that he invokes in relation to postcolonial theory are Robin Hood, Andries Treurnicht and the Ajatola Khomeini. For Naude, postcolonial theory is about attributing certain cultural traits to particular nations (Europe) and absolving other nations (Africa) from guilt. Being colonised are, for him, only ascribed to 'Third World' countries. (Yes, the Third World still exist in his world). And then his counter argument to this postcolonial fallacy, with his insights into world history, is that India and China (buddies of the ANC) actually colonised themselves and... wait for this one: the USA is currently being colonised, by... Mexico and South America. Seriously. The USA is currently being colonised by Mexico and South America.

Like I said, perhaps this is poetic language or maybe there was something else 'in die pyp'. Perhaps Naudé should help his reader towards his sources on postcolonial theory, apart from Jeff Radebe and the Afrikaans braaivleis vure. If Fanon is correct, in "Wretched of the Earth", then the ANC government should rather be understood as a "nationalist bourgeoisie", who simply don't have the imagination to transcend the colonial script. They (and Mr Jeff Rabebe) are not the proponents of postcolonial theory. If Said is correct, in "Orientalism", then our constructions of reality, like Africanness or Western-ness are just that: constructions that need to be read historically, and which can be changed. That is why postcolonial theory is deconstructing essentialisms and outdated binaries in the process of re-imaging hybridity and liberating syncretisms. This kind of thinking has nothing to do with ideological fundamentalism or with the continuation of victim or guilty binaries, so entrenched in the ANC's (actually Mbeki's) form of nativism (X Mangcnu). Unless Naudé work/struggle with this framework, he is either ignorant or simply misleading in his understanding of postcolonial theory, but also in his analysis of the current elite transition being executed, in front of our eyes. What's happening under the ANC is another form of trickery, according to postcolonial theorist, and author or "On the Postcolony", Achille Mbembe. It should not astound us that the most fruitful postcolonial work up to date, has been done through poetry and prose, where words, images, experiences are experimented within the fluidity of culture in the postcolony. This artistry does play with holy boundaries and expose outdated dogmas, but most importantly, it does so, in order to exposing the way, literary products have been used as weapons to numb, to silence.... One can only hope that this was not (again) the intention of Naudé, (again) in service of the old dogmas.... We wouldn't know. Perhaps it was just an old trick, again. How ironic would that be?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Marching (dancing) to beat of the old drums

Today's March and shutdown of SA's big cities shouldn't fool us. It's the ANC-COSATU-SACP, at war within itself. But its not a real war, they're just playing tricks on our eyes. You see, (or you don't), some time ago Julius Malema lashed out against the Union leadership (Vavi and others), one week or so ago he was kicked out of the ANC, today he marches with Vavi. But let's assume Juju is just a side-show, who opportunistically gatecrashed Vavi's party (no surprises there); Vavi still walked side by side with the Youth League's office-bearers in the march. Which brings me to the point of the youth of our nation, which should be the heartbeat of the Youth League; the beat of the future.

Today this new configuration of power will call all and sundry to the war, to sacrifice a day, teachers included. The consequence will be that children, mostly from black township schools, will roam the streets, yet tomorrow the same 'leaders' will lament the dismal results of these black learners. You see (or you don't) its all a game you know-a game of 'who's fooling who', a game of using black bodies as ammunition in a bigger war, the war of who sits and eats at the table. Tonight, after the march, these men will continue to slap the backs of Zuma and his ilk, calling each other 'comrade this' and 'cadre that' and the teachers will pick up their kids at the 'Model C' schools. But before you say it, let me deny it: I am I am not cynical. What is playing out here is a struggle at a deeper level, where the unions are not the keys to social change anymore. They are part of the problem. The game has changed. 

I've recently started to delve deeper into Emmanuel Kantangole, after studying Steve Biko and Frantz Fanon the last few years. They help me to understand the drama of post-colonial nation-states. Katangole makes it clear that this sacrificing of black bodies, of the black future at the hands of the new post-colonial political leadership (including unions) are simply the mirror of the old colonial imagination.They dance (toyi-toyi to the old beat). Yes, they've learnt from the best of colonial practice on how to dance to the beat of power, the 'politics of eating', thus perpetuating the ongoing sacrifice of Africa. With the 'masses' being socialized into this drama, they see no contradiction; they are foolled into believing that COSATU is really playing on their side. But they are being offered as a symbol of Vavi's power. The more fans you can show the more powerful you are. Part of the reason is the fans of Vavi and Juju have become used to the idea of having a player playing in 'our team' for a few months just to be sold to our arch-rivals in the next season. Then we all join in the calling for his blood, because, after all, it's just a game, you know. The key is how do we understand the real game and play it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

There's a General in our dream.

It's kind of weird when an old Apartheid General out of our grim South African past, appears in our dream. One obviously wonders- where did this come from? Perhaps it shouldn't surprise us when this happens. Afterall, part of our negotiated settlement or better, negotiated 'reconciliation' was the amnesty granted to the perpetrators of the atrocities during the period of Apartheid.This model was critical in breaking the cycle of retribution or worse, revenge. We dreamt of a new South Africa, where we could discover each other and our common future.

The consequence of the settlement was however the reality that these people still lives amongst us. The old and the new living side by side. Most of us would ignore, forget, blur these realities. And then, in a moment of weakness the old order shows its face and we are again taken back to the bad old days and the bad old ways. 

Perhaps this awakening, glimpses of the old order, is helpful. It might help us to shed our illusions and romanticism about today. It might sharpen our resolve to continue to build on a daily basis, the new society that we all dream of. It might help to remind us of who we are not and what we don't want to become. We have a choice to re-affirm our dreams of what and who we can be.

But then, if not, then the ghosts of the past will continue to haunt us and pull us back into kind of living, that we know, has no future. I choose for a kind of living that has a future, and that future is certainly not in the hands of a general.