{ Under The Bluegums }

A personal blog with craft tutorials, reviews of books, films, and music, parenting advice, and opinions on society and politics.

October 13, 2014

Don't Compete


October 10, 2014

Book Review || Ancestral Voices by Etienne van Heerden

cover-van-heerden-ancestral-voices
Perhaps it is simply because my days and nights have for so long been filled with academic reading that I really enjoyed this novel. I have been intending to read more South African novels, and this one happened to be the next on my shelf. I’m very glad it was.

I read the English translation, 'Ancestral Voices', to van Heerden’s Toorberg. I sort of regret not reading it in Afrikaans, because I know that something has been lost in translation – there really is nothing like Afrikaans for certain turns of phrase.

'Ancestral Voices' is a history and a mystery. It stretches from colonial times to the infamous apartheid era, and has a rich and interesting timeline, full of little tales and fables and myths about family members that every family would speculate upon. The family tree is the focal point, along with its so-called black sheep, its rotten branches, its bad blood.

Of course, with South Africa’s history, it is inevitable that the bad blood is blood that is not white. With the first indiscretion, Floris is not only expelled from the family, but so is the Moolman’s skaamfamilie – the family that came from the “shame” of mixing races. Much like mental illness, shame and sin was, for a people who alternately believed in the power of the Malay magician and their superiority as a Western race, something upon which to blame misfortune, something that is a punishment.

However, the novel makes it clear that it is not bad blood that causes degeneracy; it is wealth and greed; also privilege and entitlement – the very same privilege and entitlement that led white people to oppress those who they deemed lesser.

It was the entitlement of the pure blooded Moolmans that caused the rift between the families, and their belief that they deserved their privilege. Justice is important in such views of entitlement, for only a few are privileged to have justice. The magistrate, in searching for the real end of Trickle’s life, discovers the real crimes of the Moolmans and the family of their shame: the exclusion of generations from the same bloodline on an issue as absurd as skin colour. In searching for guilt, the magistrate uncovers the mind’s tendency to cling to morality and immorality as explanations for the misfortunes delivered upon the sons and daughters of the founders.

As for the plot, some have complained that it is too convoluted, there are too many characters, that the observations of the ghost make no difference to the story. However, I loved the intermingling of the past and the future and the contributions of the ghosts enrich the mythology of the Toorberg.

The novel was enchanting – the very word that caused FounderAbel to call his tract of land the Toorberg – and has a timeless, dream-like quality.

October 6, 2014

First-World Mothers Are Lucky

africa-mothers
Back on 6 April, it was almost time for me to give birth to my baby, and I was pretty grateful that I have easy, good access to medical care. Some women in Africa walk miles - in labour - to give birth to their children at a facility that might be a hospital only in name.

I could barely last an hour going through the labour pains!

Christie Turlington, meanwhile, launched a foundation to help save women from haemorrhaging during child birth - it's one of the major causes of maternal death.



Via Upworthy

What are your experiences or opinions on childbirth? Particularly as news about The Odon is circulating on the Internet: according to reports, it will help prevent caesarian sections during complications, and will also ease natural childbirth. Watch the video demo here.

I agree that we need better childbirth methods, especially in third world countries; I find it curious, though, that they're testing it in third world countries first! :D The lady in the interview mentions Argentina and South Africa. Sure, the applications are more valid in third world countries, but if anything happened to go wrong? Wouldn't it make more sense to test it in a place where the best medical facilities are available?

Maybe I'm putting too much thought into this...

{Image source: By USAID Africa Bureau (Health care for sick babiesUploaded by Elitre) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons}

September 25, 2014

What heritage do we leave our children?

Twitter\CapeTalk567
Twitter\CapeTalk567
Sitting at a restaurant for Heritage Day lunch, I looked around and thought about how far South Africa has come.

We were ostensibly celebrating our 'Japanese' heritage with a sushi buffet, in a Chinese restaurant, surrounded by an Indian family, a white family gathering, Chinese owners, black cleaners, and even American tourists thrown into the mix.

Yes, South Africa has gone far - the world has gone far - but only in retrospect of my entire experience at the restaurant yesterday does the heritage that we are leaving behind strike peculiarly hollow.

Having sushi in itself raises a question mark: Fish stocks are dwindling the world over as humankind competes with nature to fill the ever-growing belly of its all-consuming appetite.

Industrial fishing has depleted the number of fish freely available, not only to the billions of people who depend on fish to live, but to the ecology of the ocean.

If man continues to fish unsustainably, what shall we leave our children? Will they only read about sushi in history books? Or will they only experience it through sushi-flavoured biscuits, or some other such invention.

At a table behind us, a family gathered for their meal, not a single person without their cellphone in their hands, madly typing, playing, or clicking away into the void. A family gathering, and no one is there.

Whenever experts discuss cellphones, they talk about how the radiation could cause tumours in your children's brains, or how having the headphones up too loud can damage ears, but they never say that the family suffers because everyone using a cellphone is addicted to the immediate rewards they get from interacting online or talking about themselves or winning a reward in a game.

Cellphones might bring you close to people far away, but they can take you away from the people close to you. And don't even get me started on the horror of text message jargon…

Don’t get me wrong, message jargon has its place, but what is concerning is that the nuances of language are being lost – I believe it’s one of the reasons for debates on ‘too’ and ‘two’, for example.

A child begins to throw a tantrum, jumping up and down on the restaurant's chair. After saying 'No' once or twice, and finding no effect, her guardian merely offered her a packet of chips - the perfect opportunity for teaching the child that throwing a tantrum will get it something good for being bad.

Through rewarding tantrums, you teach that authority will give way, there are no consequences to bad behaviour, and your parent – and anyone else in the way of your desires - is nothing but a nag.

At another table, a glass fell, scattering ice all over the floor, but when the cleaner came out and cleaned up, there was no one to thank him. Certainly, he is being paid to do his job, but everyone expects a reward for good work – all that called for was a single word.

So in the modern world today, where we are swamped in work, stress, material items, consumerism, we rage against the relentless poaching of our rhino but ignore the Cape seahorse, which is also being poached and sent around the world to adorn the marine tanks of the hobbyist.

We decry load-shedding and curse Eskom for its lack of service but do nothing to force its hand into choosing more sustainable options that will no longer pollute our skies and air.

We wring our hands at the pollution lining our rivers but don’t think twice when we discard our babies’ disposable diapers and other toxic substances in landfills where the poison will slowly seep into our water.

We tug at our hair because of the high amount of crime, and yet do nothing to help those living on only R11 a day.

We pull our faces because the Dalai Lama was denied a visa for the third time but we don’t think twice about who made our clothing in a sweat shop or how many children are being trafficked right this second.

At this rate, the only heritage our children, or their children, will have is the only the memory of good things.

We are told every day to remember our pasts, celebrate our heritage, but what of the reality of today and what we leave our children in the future?

September 10, 2014

'What's Your Favourite Woody Allen Movie?'

woody-allen-caricature
The title of this post is taken from an open letter written by Dylan Farrow - the daughter of Mia Farrow and adopted daughter of Woody Allen - about the sexual abuse she went through at his hands.

Her letter is just another reminder of the storm - or non-storm - created by her first admissions of sexual assault. Hollywood - the heroes of her memory, which included the likes of Diane Keaton and Cate Blanchett - remained silent in the face of her claims, and now, the entire world follows suit.

Here is a choice quote from her letter:
I didn’t know that my father would use his sexual relationship with my sister to cover up the abuse he inflicted on me. I didn’t know that he would accuse my mother of planting the abuse in my head and call her a liar for defending me. I didn’t know that I would be made to recount my story over and over again, to doctor after doctor, pushed to see if I’d admit I was lying as part of a legal battle I couldn’t possibly understand. At one point, my mother sat me down and told me that I wouldn’t be in trouble if I was lying – that I could take it all back. I couldn’t. It was all true. But sexual abuse claims against the powerful stall more easily. There were experts willing to attack my credibility. There were doctors willing to gaslight an abused child.
As far as I know, her open letter - which must have been difficult to write - had no effect on the media, aside from a comment referring to her writing as 'passive-aggressive' and in the league of all open-letter writers. Scarlett Johannson's defence of her former director largely overshadowed any possible reality of the abused victim.

The star called her out because she dropped "name[s of stars] into a situation that none of [them] could possibly knowingly comment on", and said it was 'irresponsible' of her. She even goes on to say that there is no reason to assume that Dylan was telling the truth because he was never convicted. And this is what Dylan says haunts her about the abuse till this day.

It is true that one cannot make assumptions, but after so many years and so much ridicule, why would Dylan be lying? Is this just an extension of the societal rape culture, that the victim, in attempting to be honest and revealing the possible truth about people who should supposedly be respected, is ignored and rebuffed at the very hands of people who should be at the very least questioning the possibility that she is telling the truth?

Dylan's final sentence rings hard and true:
Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
After Dylan made her letter public, Woody Allen hit back soon, accusing her of being coached by his former flame Mia Farrow, and of being stripped of a "loving father" and "exploited" by a mother steeped in her own "festering anger". The scenario involving the attic he dismissed out of hand because he was a claustrophobe. He even  passed a lie detector test.

Dylan wrote again, claiming nothing he said or wrote would change the facts of what he had done to her.

Regardless of the mudslinging, nothing has been proven either way. There are some questionable facts, however, as outlined by this article.

With Allen due to release Magic in the Moonlight soon he is in the spotlight again, but said he has never "agonised for a second" over the molestation allegations. Tell me, who would not? If I cared for someone as much as he claims to have cared about Dylan, the fact that they believed I had abused them if I had not would be top of mind. I would never be able to get over it, and would do everything in my power to help that person. But that's just me.

Comments he made recently when asked about the tragic death of Robin Williams may give us some insight into his above statement - though they are taken out of context:
You need to tell yourself a couple of lies to get through life. Otherwise it’s too grisly. If you don’t have a strong denial mechanism, try waking up in your bed at 3am when there are no distractions. You get a cold chill
{Image source: Wikimedia Commons\Strassengalerie}

August 17, 2014

Books Recommending People



I was warned, though, that stalkers are clever and may pretend to read your favourite book to spark your interest! So beware :)

{Image source: By Jelizawjeta P. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons}

August 16, 2014

Just Read || Feminist Literary History by Janet Todd

janet-todd-feminist-literary-history-co ver
Janet Todd's 'Feminist Literary History' is an excellent overview of early Anglo-American feminist criticism, particularly with regards to its early history, and to how it differs.

She takes a look at notable publications by the likes of Elaine Showalter, Kate Millett, Julia Kristeva, and many more, pointing out the positives and negatives of their arguments, but intending to show how the early feminist criticism was hostilely attacked from feminist and non-feminist arenas.

She summarises her main points best in her introduction: Her look at the history of early feminist criticism reviews in particular the rereadings of Lacan, Freud and Derrida to demolish traditional binary oppositions, while they still hold firmly to the importance of the penis for the development of these binaries and of language. She also questions how psychoanalysis has taken away the political reins of the original feminist movement and turned the horse's head to focus on interiority - a feminine trait indeed - and family rather than opening wide canonical texts to expose conservative workings of culture.

One of the most interesting features of this book was Todd's look at Mary Wollstonecraft, whose temporal location in history provided for her a background in enlightenment that was hopeful, yet at the same time bound her in her gender that left her confused, and made her writings seem too much to desire the position of dominance her male contemporaries revelled in. However, Todd states Wollstonecraft was claiming the only power aristocratic females had in hand in her time; where male aristocrats were supremely active, she claimed the feminine sexual power of passivity as her own in her writings.

Todd's second to last chapter looks at how men in feminist criticism have claimed their place in the negotiations for female power, but morosely admits that for the most part, it had been turned around to become an investigation into what was masculine, and finally concentrated on how homosexuality was also a victim in the world of hegemonic masculinity.

In her conclusion, Todd calls for feminist literary study to be recognised as the study of women affecting and becoming part of culture at particular sociohistorical times, and urges male feminists to read women as part of their studies, too.

Of course, this book was published way back in 1991, and it may be safe to assume that gender studies today makes a more far-reaching area for debate on gender.

August 11, 2014

Purebred Cruelty

Wikimedia Commons\Aobranc
I recently attended the World of Dogs and Cats in Johannesburg over a week ago. I enjoy going; I like to see all the different breeds of cats and dogs, watch some animals frolic with their owners in the competitions, and just generally look around.

I haven't been to the expo in quite some time, and this time around, I could not get a dis-eased feeling out of my stomach. The trained dogs barked and played with their owners, running after balls and through hoops and climbing through obstacle courses, and though I smiled, I still felt dis-eased. Walking through the cat hall, the prim and proper flat faces of Persians lined the desks, and I couldn't help feeling dis-eased, especially when my mom reached out to pet one of the cats, and the owner said, "Please don't! He's about to be judged!" When I took a peek at the show budgies, I looked at their squashed-in beaks, wondered how they breathed with hardly any nostrils, and felt dis-eased.

I think my issue this year was the result of a ViralNova article I read about how purebred dogs and cats and other animals are merely human-enhanced; that is, their deformed, genetic mutations have been taken advantage of to meet the "breed standards" of a select few, and usually result in short lives of pain for the animals in question. With certain characteristics becoming associated with certain breeds, those characteristics were encouraged by inbreeding, and more inbreeding, so that the Persian cat's nose is just-so, the bull terrier's snout is just-so, the pug can hardly breathe through its tiny snout, the sloping back of the Alsatian is its painful bane, the bulldog can only give birth through Caesarian section because the puppies' heads are too big, and most "purebred" animals have shortened lifespans as a result of cancer, bone and spine issues, sensitive stomachs, and much more.

So, like College Humor (below) says, give me a little mongrel any day. At least he'll share more than six years with me.



{Image source: Wikimedia Commons\Aobranc}

August 1, 2014

Giraffe's Death Ruined My Friday

giraffe-transport
Twitter\RT_com
I was enjoying my Friday, because I was surprised that it was Friday, until I heard the news about a giraffe killed on the N1 highway because it hit its head on a bridge.

I would love to know who thought it would be a good idea to let the heads of these animals stick out above the truck. It's such an illogical thing to do, I have to wonder if the person who told the drivers they could go was of sane mind.

I don't believe the neglect was purposeful, but it's the apathetic not-my-problem attitude that permeates the accident that has my blood boiling. It's because this attitude of it's-not-my-job is one of the reasons the world is the way it is today. No one takes responsibility for anything, because it's always someone else's responsibility.

People on social networks were also outraged by the incident:









I think the outrage is more intense in South Africa, because we already have to deal with reports that over 1,000 rhinos were killed in 2013 alone because of demand from the Asian black market for the supposed horn that is proven not to solve the sexual problems of its buyers, and that the killing of our rhinos is ongoing. We hear about our pangolin being eaten to extinction and its scales sold in the thousands on the black market because they are believed to be a miracle cure. We have to deal with hunters coming from the West revelling in canned lion hunting because, you know, they paid for the right. We've just recently heard about the first two elephants poached for ivory in our country since forever.

And then we have this blatant ignorance, or apathy, or uncaring attitude that carelessly transports such beautiful and dignified animals without a further thought than how much they're going to be paid at the end of the day.

Well, I hope you're sued for animal cruelty and neglect. I hope your pay goes into paying for your idiocy. Even though it won't make up for the loss of a life.

July 28, 2014

Movie Review || Walk Of Shame

walk-of-shame-movie-poster
In Elizabeth Banks' new film, 'Walk of Shame', I spent most of my time wringing my hands and pulling my hair (metaphorically). The film follows the humorous experiences of Banks' character after she has a one-night-stand and tries to find her way home to prepare for a news cast that might mean a promotion for her. The only problem is that her car was towed, and once she left her lover's apartment, she couldn't remember which number it was. Hilarity (supposedly) ensues as she finds herself deeper and deeper in trouble.

The focal point of the film is the 'slutty' yellow dress that she wore to the club to celebrate her new-found singledom, which is her only covering throughout the entire film (except for her high heel shoes and, at one stage, a white coat, which she strangely discards even though it could have disguised her for a while).

The shortness of the dress is the cause of all her problems. As she walks through downtown Los Angeles without cellphone and warmth, she is continually mistaken for a prostitute. She approaches several men for help - a taxi driver who takes her to a strip club and then tries to bribe a lap dance out of her, a few other men in cars, one of whom wants some 'help' down on his lap, a jogger who runs away from her, a member of a Jewish community, a young boy who just wants to see her boobs, and even the police, all of whom don't bother to listen to her pleas for help.

Indeed even the women in the film will not even listen to her because of her appearance, including a bus driver who kicks her out of the bus yelling 'crack whore', an old lady on the bus calling her disgusting because of her assumed 'work', and even a woman she approaches on the road.

The only people who bother to listen to her story and help her are three black men, who are the stereotypical drug dealers living in the 'hood'. They appear to be the only decent people in the film: although they do at first judge her by her appearance, they listen to her story and help her make a phone call. They even help her run away from the police.

Eventually, the whole of LA is on the lookout for a 'hooker hoodlum' in a yellow dress who has been linked to several crimes, including streetwalking, theft, a hate crime, drug dealing, and avoiding arrest. I think the dress is a symbol of her 'walk of shame', that moment in time when a college student leaves the room of the man she slept with that night and walks through the dorm of careening, shaming men, a la 'Sorority Boys'. You know, because men can't have walks of shame.

What had me wriggling uncomfortably was not only the comedic value of the film - she really walks into the worst situations and just makes it all worse - but also the fact that no one would listen to her asking for help. It brought to mind this video:



And on top of it all the indirect 'slut-shaming' made me uncomfortable, too. It was almost as though the film was misogynistically asking the audience to say, 'Yeah, she asked for it, wearing a dress like that' and 'It's a miracle she wasn't raped!'

Although Banks' character was blameless, it felt as though the film was showing women who wear so-called 'slutty' dresses what society thinks of them and why they shouldn't dress that way (contrary to all advertising, for example) and that if you're dressed that way you only get what you deserve - shame, insults, victim-blaming.

The dress is, thus, for me, not only an indictment of our quick-to-judge society, but also for its bias in encouraging women to be sexy while simultaneously punishing them for doing so. Our patriarchal society wants women to be sexual objects, but only when it so desires - not in the public forum of our own choice, but in the private forum of its own.

The film only slightly managed to redeem itself at the end, however, where Banks' character publicly - in a forum where she is usually the object at which the gaze of newswatchers is directed - accepts and asserts herself as subject, calling out the people who judged her and refused to help her because of her appearance, taking ownership of the yellow dress and of her self that is not the object of someone's desires but the subject of her own.

Of course, this was all undermined by the happy ending she was certain to have with James Marsden's character, for whom she is the object of desire. But, oh, well, she tried!

July 22, 2014

Just Read || The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

'The Grapes of Wrath' was slow reading to start. Its lyrical prose and realism, however, took hold of me at around the middle as the Joad family's struggles became those of the starving people of the world today. By the end, the novel became one of those that you read about - one of those that made me genuinely sigh and think about the world, that made me feel disturbed.

The Joads are searching for the American dream - a dream that all too many people don't reach because of the rise of capitalism, industrialism, the glorified slavery of the minimum wage. Steinbeck has painstakingly revealed the truth of the struggling poor, and though 'The Grapes of Wrath' was written seven decades ago, the story still resounds today because of inequality, poverty, lack of food security...

Although the novel was met with critical acclaim, earning Steinbeck the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, farmers in California were displeased with the way they were represented in the novel, with perspectives such as the following being their fictional beliefs:
"Them goddamn Okies got no sense and no feeling. They ain't human. A human being wouldn't live like they do. A human being couldn't stand it to be so dirty and miserable. They ain't a hell of a lot better than gorillas."
This description of the capitalisation of the land is apt:
"Once California belonged to Mexico and its land to Mexicans; and a horde of tattered feverish Americans poured in. And such was their hunger for land that they took the land ... and they guarded with guns the land they had stolen ... The Mexicans were weak and fed. They could not resist, because they wanted nothing as frantically as the Americans wanted land. Then, with time, the squatters were no longer squatters, but owners; and their children grew up and had children on the land. And the hunger was gone from them, the feral hunger, the gnawing, tearing hunger for land, for water and earth and the good sky over it ... They had these things so completely that they did not know about them any more ... They arose in the dark no more to hear the sleepy birds' first chittering, and the morning wind around the house while they waited for the first light to out to the dear acres. These things were lost, and crops were reckoned in dollars, and land was value by principal plus interest, and crops were bought and sold before they were planted ... And all their love was thinned with money, and all their fierceness dribbled away in interest until they were no longer farmers at all ... Then those farmers who were not good shopkeepers lost their land to good shopkeepers ... And as time went on, the business men had the farms ... Now, farming became industry... They imported slaves, although they did not call them slaves... They live on rice and beans, the business men said. They don't need much. They wouldn't know what to do with good wages. Why, look how they live ... And if they get funny - deport them ... And it came about that owners no longer worked on their farms. They farmed on paper; and they forgot the land, the smell, the feel of it, and remembered only that they owned it, remembered only what they gained and lost by it ... Okies - the owners hated them because the owners knew they were soft and the Okies were strong, that they were fed and the Okies hungry; and perhaps the owners had heard from their grandfathers how easy it is to steal land from a soft man if you are fierce and hungry and armed".
And this:
"Men of property were terrified for their property. Men who had never wanted anything very much saw the flare of want in the eyes of the migrants. And the men of the towns and of the soft suburban country gathered to defend themselves; and they reassured themselves that they were good and the invaders bad... The local people whipped themselves into a mould of cruelty..."
We can see the same thing today; farms of acres of land are owned by a single man, a man who usually doesn't do the ploughing, who doesn't know the sunlight, who doesn't know the drought. There are few farm hands, because machines are the new slaves, and the farm hands that do work are paid just enough for life. In suburbia, the farm hands are McDonald's workers, waiters and waitresses, the slaves paid to put up with the foibles of the middle class.

But this scene is one that will remain with me all of my days - it is a scene that Steinbeck has carved in my mind, and I will never look at a beggar the same way:
...outside they could hear the children digging into the pot with their sticks and their spoons and their pieces of rusty tin. A mound of children smothered the pot from sight. They did not talk, did not fight or argue; but there was a quiet intentness in all of them, a wooden fierceness.
Have you read 'The Grapes of Wrath'?

July 17, 2014

No More Blurred Lines For Me!

My relationship with Robin Thicke's song 'Blurred Lines' has been strained, but Weird Al Yankovich has saved me!

I'll admit that the song is exceedingly catchy, and it really makes me feel like dancing.

BUT the feminist inside me has *hated* the song because of its unsavoury lyrics, lyrics which almost no one who plays the song over and over again seems to think are a big deal or a reflection on our society at large with regards to rape culture.

Lines from the song that make my skin crawl include the inimitable "OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you; But you're an animal, baby, it's in your nature" and "You the hottest bitch in this place", but I won't get ahead of myself.

I won't turn this into a diatribe on why those lyrics are wrong for so many reasons, but I've always felt guilty for enjoying the music.

No more! Weird Al Yankovic has saved me, and probably countless others, with his parody, which is not only a far cry from the 'rapiness' of Robin Thicke's version, but it's all about language!



It's like an anthem for editors and proofreaders everywhere! *I'm in heaven*!

emma-stone-crying-Giphy.com


Via GeeksAreSexy

July 16, 2014

Video: Epic Rap Battle - TMNT vs Artists

This is one of the funniest things I've seen in ages. :) You would especially appreciate it if you're a child of the 80s. Cowabunga, Dude!




Via GeeksAreSexy

July 11, 2014

Why Do You Like A Man In Uniform?

man-in-uniform
I was travelling to work on Tuesday - for the first time in months - and found myself watching a Joburg Metro Police Department officer waving his white-gloved arms through the air as he directed traffic. I began to wonder why on Earth a man in uniform is so appealing to a woman.

In my opinion, uniforms not only look, but are, uncomfortable. Remember how much you disliked your school uniform? Exactly. The fabric is inevitably scratchy because it is either starched to retain its shape - otherwise everyone will look different after the first time they wash - or naturally stiff.

But what exactly is the allure? We even feel a certain attraction to men dressed up in the trademark uniform of business - the suit - and weddings - the tuxedo.

It has a lot to do with the psychological impression that one can get from what someone is wearing. Have a soft spot for check shirts? You may believe it's a sign of compassion and being down-to-earth. Prefer a man with skinny jeans? It may be that you like to see a man who's confident with his body. Get the giggles for a man with a uniform? Uniforms are usually worn by people considered diligent and  hardworking. Particularly if you throw in a bunch of men wearing military uniforms, other associations come up as well, including heroic and brave.

kate-middleton-uniform-gif

This may appeal to our patriarchally-defined natures of needing protection, and who better to do so that a man trained in the art of heroism and war?

I also think it also has a lot to do with social conventions that have been passed down through our parents and through literature over the last century or so, and, sadly, it has to do with money. If a man was not rich by birth, he could be relatively well-off by making his way up the ranks in the military and receiving steady pay from the government for his service. This happened often in Jane Austen's books, and though it wouldn't really apply today, us little women have been trained to see men in uniform as being a sure thing when it came to money - unless, of course, the men in question gambled it all away...

What superficial creatures we are! Do you enjoy seeing a man in uniform? If you do, why do you think so?

{Image credit: Wikimedia Commons\Alexander Cohen\Google Art Project}

July 4, 2014

John Steinbeck's Manself

airfighter-bombs
John Steinbeck's 'The Grapes of Wrath' is one of the books I am currently reading, and I am sad to admit that it feels a bit of a trudge for me. I don't think it's because there's anything wrong with the book - far be it for me to slam an iconic classic of American fiction - but I just don't feel as though I'm in the right mind to read a book so much about change, progress, and loss as this one.

Still, I am, as I say, trudging, and came across this passage which struck a chord with me last night:
The last clear definite function of man - muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond the single need - this is man. To build a wall, to build a house, a dam, and in the wall and house and dam to put something of Manself, and to Manself take back something of the wall, the house, the dam; to take hard muscles from the lifting, to take the clear lines and form from conceiving. For man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments. This you may say of man - when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back. This you may say and know it and know it. This you may know when the bombs plummet out of the black planes on the market-place, when prisoners are stuck like pigs, when the crushed bodies drain filthily in the dust. You may know it in this way. If the step were not being taken, if the stumbling-forward ache were not alive, the bombs would not fall, the throats would not be cut. Fear the time when the bombs stop falling while the bombers live - for every bomb is proof that the spirit has not died. And fear the time when the strikes stop while the great owners live - for every little beaten strike is proof that the step is being taken. And this you can know - fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe

If you haven't read the novel, I'm certain you possibly don't have a clue what Steinbeck is trying to say here, so I'll help you along a little. The novel, so far, appears to be a diatribe on how corporate America ruined man. Farmers were thrown off the land they couldn't afford to buy, land that they had worked and sweated into, and tried to make better lives for themselves elsewhere.

On the surface, the quotation seems to be glorifying man's aspirational nature - that he lives for progress, that we should fear a lack of progress because it would mean man's spirit has died.

But I think it is more pessimistic about that progress - that though mankind is evolving and making the world a better place - it is only a few Manselves who are progressing, while the others form part of the beaten strike, are the ones having their throats cut.

Do you believe my interpretation is incorrect?

{Image source: Wikimedia Commons\defenseimagery.mil}

May 31, 2014

Last Photo

alzheimers-brain
Today I discovered the last photograph that my father took before the Alzheimer's stripped away his confidence with the camera. It was taken in January 2013, and is a simple image of the sun reflecting from and intensifying the colour of the green grass in a section of my parent's garden.

Other images from the same shoot are simple portraits of my parent's home, filled with stuff, filled with colour, but strangely emulating my father's mind in its emptiness.

Although many of the photos preceding these are filled with images of people - my niece at various events at her school, for example - dotted within the collection are images that poignantly reflect my father's state of mind - they seem odd at a cursory glance, but they reflect an innocence and a loneliness that I cannot get out of my mind.

I cannot imagine the turmoil that my father was going through. His type of the disease - Early Onset Alzheimer's - is genetic, and struck him in the prime of his life: he is now only 57 years old, and it has taken about four years for his memory to be absolutely gone, and the late stage symptoms to begin showing, such as enhanced weight loss, loss of muscle definition, the inability to wash or care for oneself, heightened aggression, easy aggravation, and an unawareness of one's surroundings, including whether or not someone is talking to you. I don't want to undermine the suffering of those twice my father's age who also have Alzheimer's, but my father's time on this earth was cut short too soon.

The image above is a representation of severe Alzheimer's disease - my father's brain probably looks similar to this.

He was an extremely intelligent man. He wanted to become a doctor, but his family couldn't afford it and after he left school he could choose between the army or the Post Office. He chose the latter, working at the very top of the Hillbrow tower where one day he held me tightly so I wouldn't fly away with the wind. Before he was diagnosed, he was a systems analyst and programmer for Dimension Data, writing code for some of the world's biggest communications companies.

He was the first person I would go to for a science or maths problem, and he had unending patience: he would come home from work at 7 and spend the evening trying to help me understand algebra or geometry problems. He loved children, loved animals, loved making things, loved watching children's movies like The Little Mermaid over and over with his two daughters, loved the good things in life, loved peanut butter and syrup sandwiches, loved eggs, would fight for the crust of a warm loaf of bread, grew his beard so my mom would stop biting his pointy chin, loved to make time for you, loved to share his knowledge, loved to laugh, loved to joke, loved to play, loved to love and be loved. He loved to take photographs, a hobby he picked up after school and that never left him. Until January 2013.

The following tirade really has nothing to do with anything recent that has happened to me, but blasé comments like, 'He must be getting Alzheimer's' when someone humorously forgets something really get under my skin.

I'd just like to get one thing off my chest: jokes about Alzheimer's are not funny. It is not funny to use the disease in a joke about age or memory. It is not funny to slowly feel as though you are losing your mind because you forget simple things like where you put your car keys or your wallet or the answer to a simple maths equation, only to go for tests and discover that you have memory problems that have nothing to do with age but everything to do with decay.

It is not funny to lose every talent you held dear and forget how to do the simplest of tasks. It is not funny to try take part in a conversation you don't understand. It is not funny to slowly forget those around you, those who love you, until eventually, to them, you seem to truly be a shell of yourself - the skin but not the soul.

And to your loved ones, it is not funny hearing someone ridicule the disease that has eaten away at everything that made you who you are so that every visit is a shock, and every phonecall might be the one declaring your death.

They say every cloud has a silver lining, and although this cloud will only end with rain, I'm glad my father got to meet Emma while he was still lucid.

{Image source: Wikimedia Commons}

May 6, 2014

Star Wars: 1977 to 2014 - What's Changed In The Gender Stakes?

hollywood-star-wars-cement
The original Star Wars series has been a family staple for as long as I can remember. Even when the first three episodes were released, my family made a point to watch all of them on the big screen (yes, even Episode I), and my dad and I sat amongst a crowd of fans for Episode III who decided to autonomously give the introduction a peal of applause.

Even though Princess Leia was not my favourite character from the series, it was refreshing - considering that my sister and I lived on a film diet of Disney animations - to see a princess who was not only beautiful but also powerful and courageous and intelligent and cheeky, and who mostly contributed in a major way to the development of the storyline with the end-goal not being to find a husband and marry him.

It must have been a major gamble to have a princess like this in the film, aside from the risk that the entire film must have been - watching A New Hope on Star Wars Day made me wonder what the actors were thinking as they dressed up as C-3PO, Chewbacca, and various other oddball characters. Back in the '70s, it was relatively unlikely to find a strong female lead who wasn't focused on finding that dream hunk of a husband (in my opinion). Though Harrison Ford launched his career playing a potential mate for Princess Leia, the point for me was that being with him wasn't her end-goal - sure, she ended up with him, but only because her priority of saving the Galaxy from the Empire was fulfilled.

However, that was almost 40 years ago, and I had harboured hopes that, after announcements that the saga would be continuing and the fact that female-led films led the box office profits last year, the film would feature some exciting new lead female characters, especially after . Alas, I have been disappointed. And a mock-up made for fun rubs this fact in - it features only one little lady. Certainly, there were two major actresses announced for the upcoming film, but one is from the original series, so I count that as not counting. I presume that the film will aim to pass the Bechdel Test so the film can be shown in Sweden.

You would think that after so much time they would consider adding more than one female role (and another supposedly in limbo), but it seems that major producers still believe that science-fiction is for boys, and princesses are for girls. And we only need one princess, right?

Am I out of line?

{Image source: Wikimedia Commons\sweetviscape}

April 8, 2014

#OscarTrial: And The World Awaits Cross-Examination

oscar-pistorius
As the world watched Oscar Pistorius testify today, many were drawn to tears as he sobbed when describing the events that led up to and the moment of Reeva Steenkamp's death at his hands.

I try not to be the judge and jury regarding cases such as these. Oh, yes, I have my opinions, opinions that cannot see through the irrational way in which he confronted the situation, and hardly exonerate him as a blameless victim of South African crime and fear. But the fact remains: Oscar Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp.

After the news hit on February 14, 2013, that something had happened at Oscar's home in Silver Woods Estate in Pretoria, social networks were in a flurry to discover what had exactly happened. The initial statement from the police showed that a man had killed a woman - but it couldn't possibly have been Oscar, the most famous Paralympic athlete in the world?

As with all cases of this ilk involving celebrities, the world is quick to turn its back on those they once favoured, envied, and worshipped, and opinions quickly shift from the positive to the negative, with many saying they never liked him, or they thought he was too arrogant, or other personal attacks on his character.

Keeping a firm eye on the trial since it started - lucky me; I'm in online publishing - the State's case appears weaker than they would have had us believe. They have certainly managed to make Oscar out as a short-tempered man with a fondness for guns, while the witnesses called for the State's prosecution were at pains to prove they had heard shouts and screams before hearing the gunshots. The Defence is adamant that these witnesses were hearing the pained screams of Oscar himself, as he expressed his anguish on discovering his error, and that the sounds they heard after the screams were the peals of a cricket bat breaking through the bathroom door.

Oscar's defence attorney is allowing him to express his statement in his own words now, and is gentle with him, but I think everyone is waiting for State prosecutor Gerrie Nel to show his teeth as he cross-examines every detail of Oscar's affidavit and sworn testimony.

After a debate with work colleagues this afternoon, I was sent a link to a video showing that the sounds of gunshots versus cricket bats slamming on doors is very similar. Check it out here.

That led me to the below interview with Robert Shapiro, that epitome of celebrity defence lawyers. It is interesting, as he says the first thing he tells his clients is to keep their mouths shut; something Oscar has not done.



What do you think so far?

{Image source: Wikimedia Commons\Elvar Pálsson}

Other videos you may like to watch:
Reeva: The Model You Thought You Knew
Oscar Pistorius What Really Happened
(BBC) (This one is really good for background on Oscar and Reeva, with interviews with her best friend and an ex-boyfriend who saw her for coffee two days before she was killed)
20.23: Another one: Reeva's Cousin Says She Wasn't In Love
20.28: June Steenkamp Speaks Out (She talks about Reeva telling her she and Oscar were fighting a lot)

March 12, 2014

Are Zoo Animals Happy?

unhappy-zoo-bear
Going to the zoo is the pastime of urban folk - it gives them a feeling of being in awe of nature and its fauna, and it is the delight of the children to point at and be able to recognise and name the various animals that occupy the fake dens, caves, pools, and homes.

For that - the falsity of their living space - is what these homes are to the wild animal, whether or not previously acquainted with natural surroundings.

I’ve always loved going to the zoo – seeing the animals is a beautiful experience. But I am always torn between supporting the zoo and its supposed conservation efforts, and wishing I could see the animals in the wild. But I have to admit that many of these animals, if they weren’t sitting sadly in their dens and cages – might have no home to go to, or might face the possibility of being completely wiped out in a few years’ time.

Apart from this, zoos are viewed as one of the fronts of conservation, but this is questionable on some points. How can an organisation that requires maximum commission promise to keep the livelihood of the animals top of mind, when they move animals from den to den, country to country, for piles of cash? How can they simply decide to split up animals and even kill them – like Marius the giraffe – because they are surplus, or unneeded, or inbred, or won’t fit into their breeding programme.

The argument for zoological gardens is that some animals really do need help, and youngsters visiting the zoo get valuable supplementary education outside of school. Some people are even inspired to devote their lives to animals, but the likelihood of this is apparently not common. According to one study, there are no – or very few – ‘long-term positiveeffects’ on the attitudes of people visiting zoos and aquariums towards animals.

The cons also include the fact that zoo and conservation publicity makes it look as though endangered animals are recovering well in the zoo. For many of these animals, there is no way that they will ever return to the wild. And their presence in a zoo doesn’t really do much to help fellow members of their species who are thinning out because of deforestation, poaching, and other problems.  

The question remains: are animals happy in the zoo?

It’s not simple for humans to determine what defines happiness for them, so it’s even more complex when trying to determine whether or not animals are happy. Humans tend to define their happiness or non-happiness on how stress-free their lives are, and so apply the same factors to determining the happiness of animals.

Apparently, there are no certain studies to uncover the truth or mistruth of animals being unhappy in a zoo, and research has shown that healthy animal behaviour is consumed by mannerisms that would be considered psychological or biological disorders if they were seen in humans – pacing, obesity, shorter lifespans, and self-mutilation.

Other studies have found that, while domesticated animals not only naturally have lower stress levels – because of their evolution as domesticated animals - but they also react better to stressful situations than their wild counterparts. And if we think stress levels are an indication of happiness, this would mean that domesticated animals such as guinea pigs and hamsters are happier despite being trapped in cages.

If this is true, then wild animals are significantly less happy simply because they are wild animals, and whether or not they come straight from the wild, have higher stress levels, and so react with even higher stress levels. From this we can infer that wild animals might not be happy in their artificial caves, dens, and cages. Especially if they don’t have enough space, food, water, or stimulation.

This would imply that they would be happier – although not as happy as domesticated animals – in captivity as long as their basic needs were met. This is all well and good, but a good many zoos fail to provide sufficient space for a wild animal, and many others fail to give the basic care they need for mere survival, nevermind happiness.

The image used above is the perfect one to supplement this post. Regardless of the science, of the evidence of stress levels, of every possible need possibly met, the evidence is clear. Does this animal look happy?

March 9, 2014

Just Read || The Ancient World by IA Tenen

ancient-world-cover
Published in 1955, this history of the ancient world is a school textbook. I thought that I would try to read more non-fiction books to supplement the world of my imagination.

What I found interesting about the book was how much it will differ from a similar history published more recently. There is no mention made of southern Africa at all, and Africa only figures in story as much as it was necessary for it to be colonised and pilfered by the Greek and Roman empires.

Even Asia is largely left out of the history, except for Asia Minor, which was likewise conquered for resources and riches. Ancient China is only mentioned in passing, and it is clear that the history views the origins of civilisation as starting in central Europe, despite its admission that more civilised dwellings, sanitation, and construction were copied from Asia Minor and the Far East.

The Neanderthals are introduced as they were in the early Stone Age - no mention is made of the fact that they most likely came from southern Africa, and evolution does not even figure in any explanations. This is, however, because it is a history and not a scientific document.

The history also makes it pretty clear that any religion other than Christianity is simply not worth much time. The Greek and Roman gods are only mentioned in passing as a step towards the more civilised religion of the Christian believers.

It is interesting that it takes the Old Testament as historical fact, while it wasn't until someone found evidence of the city of Minos that anyone dreamt the myth could have been true. This despite admitting, "It is a strange thing that no Egyptian records tell us anything of these events."

Of course, discoveries of various other texts, tablets, and archaeological evidence later confirmed that at least some of the stories of the Old Testament had some basis in truth, such as the existence of cities like Jericho, Dan, Meggido, Beersheba, and others, Shishak’s invasion of Judah, and more.

However, others claim that there is no evidence for events in the Bible – such as the exodus from Egypt or the Ten Plagues, for example – at all.

Meanwhile, the history also makes it clear that any population group was only considered civilised – was only considered as making a ‘great advance’ – if it believed in a single god. Initially, the Christian god was thought of as being a ‘tribal’ god who abandoned its people, and some people believed that Jeremiah taught that worshipping God was more of an attitude toward the Divine Spirit than it should have been worship limited to a specific place or people.

It was only near the end of the Roman Empire – when Constantine declared Christianity the national religion – that it inspired masses of followers and became more organised hierarchically. In this history, the Greeks are considered as a sort of pinnacle for a perfect civilisation, because they questioned and thought about everything, except for the fact that their religion was not worthy of their spirit. All the different gods made it ‘obvious that their origin lies in the worship of various natural forces and the oldest arts’.

In essence, my point about writing about this history is just to point out how knowledge of the world and civilisation has expanded since the earliest histories. Greek historians mentioned Atlantis as though it was something real, and it is difficult for us to tell whether its supposed existence was mixed up with mythological oral stories or if it was utterly true, especially since Atlantis remains as yet undiscovered.

If one thinks about the expanding knowledge and consciousness of humanity, it is inspiring to think that if you had to travel back in time with your Smartphone just seventy years, any single person you encounter would never believe that in your pocket you have access to the entirety of human knowledge, right at your fingertips.

March 3, 2014

The Pistorius Trial (And Celebrity) Sickens Me

oscar-pistorius-south-africa-flag
The trial of Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, who allegedly accidentally shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, starts today. I have a feeling of dread about it.

Perhaps it is because, as a member of the media, I'm going to be covering it closely for the expected duration of the trial. I feel much sympathy, though, for those journalists who are not blessed with online work and are - as I wrote this last night - camped outside the North Gauteng Court prepping their equipment and probably gorging themselves on piping hot coffee on such a cold evening just to keep their sanity.

Perhaps it is this media frenzy that sickens me. I agree that Oscar is a global icon - he was an inspiration for many before and after being the first paraplegic to compete against able-bodied athletes in the Olympic Games - but it saddens me that there are at least 43 murders in South Africa every day, and yet this trial is singled-out for 24-hour broadcast, the gathering of statements and opinions of dozens of law experts - including the likes of Robert Shapiro, American footballer OJ Simpson's defense attorney, and the trial by television and Twitter that will inevitably follow such elaborate coverage.

I certainly understand that the crazed attention has to do with the fact that Pistorius is a public personality, and that the coverage of a high-profile trial such as this one will help to educate South Africans about the legal and justice system of the country. However, I think there are most definitely things more important people should be concerned about.

I've heard a saying recently that the reason bad men prevail is because most people have absolute knowledge about how many goals their football team scored last night, or whether Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are married yet, but have no idea how the politics of their country works, who's actually in charge of it, where the money is going, and what is planned for the country as a whole. It is the age-old debate of the importance of celebrity and popular culture to the population. I think an important part of this popular culture is to distract - Oscar Pistorius is a distraction (for those able to afford DStv and view the 24-hour channel, and for those who can afford Internet connections and newspapers) from issues such as the escalation of service delivery protests, the obvious and seemingly catastrophic changes to global weather systems, the current military action by Russia on the Ukraine, the mass rape and murder of our young children, and even Nkandla itself will no longer be an issue. All eyes will be on the Pistorius trial for the immediate future.

What concerns me about this situation is that, while South Africa's middle-class - who hold the economic muscle in the country - watch Twitter, Facebook, DStv, SABC, eNCA, and whoever else is covering the 'event' with bated breath to hear word-by-word, moment-by-moment, what is taking place in the courtroom, and those journalists who usually cover the news are seated tweeting and updating websites with up-to-the-minute action from the trial, important occurrences might be missed. What will be able to be swept under the carpet as the nation's eyes are glued to Oscar? How many more protesters will be killed by police? How many more teens will be killed in apparent rituals? How many more young children will be sexually assaulted as they attend a church service?

And on the eve of Oscar's trial, the world is distracted by an Oscar of a different sort - the Academy Awards absorb the attention of the world as the elite pat each other on their backs for their talents while the citizens of the Ukraine are most likely planning how best to escape possible death at the hands of Russia. Or vice versa.

This while people who can hardly afford a loaf of bread a day have only the strength to look forward one more day, to make it one more day.

{Image source: Wikimedia Commons\David Jones}

February 21, 2014

Mothers: Aren't They Important?

native-american-baby
My husband often smirks when I complain about the unlikelihood of a photographer in one or the other film being able to shoot off several perfect shots with that lens, that shutter speed, and that lack of light - which actually happens quite often; it's clear that I truly appreciate photography and how difficult it is to catch that perfect shot at times.

So I have to say that Victorian photographers - man, they had it rough, and they truly must have loved their craft. To struggle to compose a photo and then expose it on their choice of medium for at least 30 seconds takes true dedication. And then to take photos of the dead without squirming? Another point. Taking photos of babies sitting perfectly still (which happens only when they're newborns, if you're lucky)? Another point.

But why are the mothers not important in the majority of those images?

According to this Guardian article, in the Victorian age, it was routine during a photo session with babies to have the mother hold the baby - only they were disguised as a chair covered with a coat, or wrapped in a curtain, or, in some cases, their faces are completely blacked or whited out. (Here is a link to a slideshow of images)

I wonder why this is?

I suppose that one does not always want one's image to be recorded for all time. Maybe it's a 'mother'-thing to not want your photograph taken. But maybe this is something that women have grown up believing - that we don't belong in photos unless we're perfect. And let's face it, mothers seldom feel perfect. Women in the Victorian era were limited to the domestic sphere, though, so it is strange that they would be left out of the photos of their own children?

As with today, the pressure on women to look a certain way must have been palpable, even then. And I think there was a lot more pressure to match expectations back then, especially since the majority of women still depended on a good marriage match. Here is a great link on Victorian Age stereotypes for the female kind.

Why do you think the mothers were excluded from the photos of their babies?

{Image credit: Wikimedia Commons\Edward S Curtis}

February 14, 2014

Why the State of the Nation Address Hits a Flat Chord

Twitter\ParliamentofRSA
Ever since I've been working in the news industry, the State of the Nation Address has always struck a flat chord with me. Especially over the last three years as our economic affairs become more dire, politicians more corrupt, and the poor poorer.

I understand that the Sona is all about tradition; however, for me the problem is that all the pomp surrounding it has turned into somewhat of a celebrity showing.

First off, there is the live broadcast. Certainly, it is an important event and I'm sure that many people are interested in how our nation is faring. It's also a positive thing that it is broadcast on the national public broadcaster, so more people will be able to see it. However, there is a negative in this: Television has been used, almost since its invention, as a propaganda tool. I am concerned that what President Jacob Zuma says in the address is taken as law, makes all the negative aspects of our country disappear. And he certainly pulled all the stops in his speech last night - will it sate the rowdy public before this year's general elections? Possibly.

Secondly, there is that infernal red carpet and all the fashion obsession that surrounds it. The Ministers of Parliament and their honoured guests traipse along the red carpet in high fashion for which they possibly paid thousands to have tailored for them - for you can be certain no one would be wearing a plain old Truworths gown. The crowds cheer and clap, certainly not hailing them for their amazing achievements - as even Mandla Mandela was there in traditional regalia - but for the simple fact that they know their names. They are asked about their clothing as though it overthrows everything about them - their political dispensation thrown aside by them and the viewers as everyone becomes an honourary member of the fashion world.

Thirdly, there is the deployment of hundreds of policemen, SANDF members, marchers, musicians, security guards, limos, convoys of luxury BMWs (because no car is an equal status symbol), and strangely imperialist displays. All of which comes at a pretty penny. The budgeted cost for the entire address this year was expected to be R5.7 million. Seriously?! Could MPs not have thought, "Hmm, this year, since there's been so much wasted expenditure, and we owe so much to foreign companies for services, perhaps we should keep the Sona simple this year, and limit it to only a speech in Parliament, or a recording like we did when Nelson Mandela died." But no, the expenditure is 'necessary'.

Speaking of pretty pennies... finally, it is the blatant celebratory banquet after the Sona that really irks me, which will take up most of the nearly R6m budget for the event. What are MPs rewarding themselves for? Doing their jobs (or not, as the case may be)? And their honoured guests? Who are they? Certainly some people deserved to come along, like the top matriculants in the country, but who else was there? I shudder to think how many tender deals were made on the R100,000-cap alcohol bill while the people in question were tipsy.

Oh, I forgot! The Sona is costing R2 million less this year. Because they decided not to hold the banquet in a tent like they did last year. Well, good on you politicians of the country! Sad that you were catered to at the Cape Town International Convention Centre instead. (Although this saving is beyond the point, because a second Address will be taking place after the general elections, and I assume it will be the same type of celebration, especially if the ANC continues with a two-thirds majority.)

In my opinion, people technically responsible for the livelihood of the country - which is crying for their help, a la protests in Ekangala, Bronkhorstspruit, and many more - shouldn't be wasting money on pricey banquets and shows of authority when there are still so many people living in poverty and remaining unemployed.

{Image credit: Twitter\ParliamentofRSA}

February 12, 2014

#DAMarch: Implications, Should Haves, and The Ball

Twitter\IsimiEssop
South Africa's official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, marched to a square near the ruling party ANC's headquarters in Johannesburg today. The march was abandoned just before marchers reached the square, as things had descended into chaos. And much of the chaos was the result of ANC supporters gathering en masse to 'protect their headquarters'.

I was nervous following the Twitter stream of the march today (#DAMarch). I was really waiting for something very bad to happen - aside from the petrol bombs and bricks thrown at police. Thankfully the DA decided to turn back before any real harm was done in a vein similar to that of the DA's march to Cosatu House in 2013.

However, the dominating themes on Twitter bothered me.

There was the overarching narrative that there were no white people in the DA's marching band. Tweets were in this vein:
This disturbs me because I would be insulted if they were referring to me. Their implication is that the supporters do not have the freedom to make their own choices regarding a political party; that the ANC is the only party for black people to support, and the DA is the only party for whites. I understand that this impression comes from hundreds of years of slavery and oppression, but the implication is also that these so-called paid-for supporters follow only the money. Which is bad news for democracy indeed, if it were true.

It is sad that more white supporters did not show up to support their party, but Twitter commentators were correct in saying most of them were at work. According to South Africa - The Real Issues, white unemployment is at about 17%. In contrast, unemployment amongst the black population is estimated, as of 2013, to be at around 30%, according to Moneyweb. This is another post all on its own, but perhaps the DA hopes that eventually no one will be able to show up at protests on random days of the week because they will actually have a job.

Eventually many interpreted the situation as a design: White people were using black people to fight black people.
In my opinion, violence has no place in society. And the fact that ANC supporters pitched up with knobkierries, sticks, and bricks, and eventually petrol bombs, says a lot about who might be to blame for the chaotic end to what was planned to be a peaceful march.

The comment is disturbing for similar reasons to those enumerated above.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said that the ANC supporters were only there to defend the headquarters of the party. Some commentators believe the DA's march to Luthuli House was a bad decision - they should really have marched to the Department of Labour or the Union Buildings.
But the fact is that the ANC holds the majority in Parliament, the majority of powerful government positions, and the majority of transformative power. In essence, the DA is calling the ruling party out for not using its majority to create the jobs that it has been promising for years.

When the DA announced its planned march, I knew from the start that it might not have been such a great idea. It had the potential to become a history-making event.
However, though it did not end in tragedy, I have to muse that perhaps this response is just what the Democratic Alliance wanted just before the general elections this year, which some believe might be the most hotly-contested since 1994.

Although the DA march was ostensibly for 'real' jobs - and by this I assume they mean jobs that last, and not contractual government work - it ended up being about democracy and the Constitution. Perhaps this is what the DA intended, or it's simply one of the positive outcomes of a march that at first looks to have been a failure.
If the ANC is so certain of its place on the democratic podium of the land, perhaps it should learn to be less intolerant of other points of view. Commending the good behaviour of its members does nothing when the evidence is all over Twitter. I believe that the DA has thrown the ball, the ANC had it in their court, and they decided to trample on it.

{Image credit: Twitter\IsimiEssop}