September 25, 2014

What heritage do we leave our children?

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?
Read More

September 10, 2014

'What's Your Favourite Woody Allen Movie?'

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}
Read More