Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lump in throat (17 June 2009)

It's just ironic that this blog that I started over a year ago didn't have anything in if it was waiting for me to have a real lump in my throat before I started writing. So, allow me to indulge myself.

It was just nice to go over my past blogs and read the stuff that moved me last year and although I am still moved, I guess life has just showed me that people do what life allows them to do what they can. I am a little defeated by life right now- I feel very disempowered, I feel like my existence means nothing that I mean nothing right now. My bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed-ness has sort of faded, you know? Like here I was rah, rah, rah, all geared up to save my world one African at a time but I can't even take care of this African! I've let myself become demoralised, useless, distant, unyielding, cold, disconnected, uncaring, self-pitying...basically a loser because I've been knocked about a bit- OK, a lot but still!

Social Commentary (27 Feb 2008)

This is a really bad idea considering that I have a lot of work to do but I had to indulge myself and express my inner turmoil today. Everybody knows that I'm particularly optimistic about the future of South Africa and the continent at large but there are a few things that concern me about the way things are going and without joining the choir of dissenters, I want to put them out there because they bothered me enough to stop me from being productive this afternoon! After all, one cannot be led blindly and the secret to a healthy democracy is voicing out opinions against behaviour/ laws/ institutions that are inherently wrong.

This is not anything new or revolutionary but it can never be said enough so if I don't blow you away, it's OK, I didn't really intend to. The history of South Africa is replete with violence and injustice- we don't even have to go as far as the former regime to see's part of our daily lives. We are all prisoners of a society that kills, rapes, maims, steals, vandalises, and hits at will- it seems like there is no limit to the extremity of violence that perpetuates itself in South Africa. This is definitely not a novel phenomenon and it can be attributable to (amongst others) the socio-economic conditions in which the majority of the population finds itself but that still does not make it right or subject to sympathy. If there's anything that everybody agrees on (accept a few privileged who seem to have their heads permanently in the sand) it's the fact that the levels of crime in this country are frightfully high and the methods used unnaturally violent and merciless. Which is quite sad because we have one of the most inclusive and liberal Constitutions in the world which makes provisions for just about everything under the sun and which cradles a Bill of Rights that makes the Framers of the American constitutions and the technocrats of the French Revolution era look like amateurs.

So we have a lot of crime and nobody feels safe anymore which is tragic because one of our basic needs as humans is safety- whether perceived or actual because without it, it is very difficult to execute "normal" human behaviour: to think logically and rationally, to exercise the spirit of uBuntu without being scared of being robbed, to allow your children to have experiences that only life can teach them because our lives are ruled by fear. So what are we going to do about it? How are we going to change this? Crime is amongst the top reasons people are emigrating in their droves and thanks to the unpredictable and intermittent power supply, there is now another list topper. The government has proved that it cannot cope- it has come to the point where people don't believe any of the statistics because reality dictates otherwise. How can anybody accept that residential robberies have decrease 7.9% between 2006 and 2007 when everyday you hear stories of people being held at gun-point in their own houses and their wives or daughters raped brutally right in front of their eyes. It has come to the point where we are immune to feeling sympathetic, instead we contribute with even more gruesome stories of our own or simply say with tired exasperation: "this country is going to the dogs" and continue making our 5th cup of coffee for the morning. More and more people are getting firearm licenses and more sophisticated alarm systems because we have resigned ourselves to the fact that the government doesn't know how or doesn't have the capacity to or just plain doesn't want to deal with crime so it is each man for himself- it is about flight or flight and really nothing to do with vigilantism.

It is obvious that our justice and legal system is failing us in this regard. There is an absolute disregard for the law in South Africa and it doesn't just start and end with crime- just look at recent traffic speed offences and the dubious manners in which social grants, housing and drivers licenses are being acquired. It is almost natural for us to disregard our laws because we have a perceived immunity to them...but is it really perceived or are we merely acting out the examples that are given to us by those in power? I am sure that I do not need to name any names but a certain Health Minister allegedly drank while in hospital with liver problems but miraculously managed to get a liver transplant while thousands are on the waiting list. Another top official was implicated in shady discounted cars deals but was released before serving his full sentence. I am sure you get the point because there are many examples that I can cite but my point is, how is society motivated to follow rules when some are exempt or treated favourably because of their office. It is also important to note that these people who are given favourable treatment are Civil SERVANTS. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines servant as thus: "one that serves others." We have definitely been served!

So it's like this- presently, there is lawlessness because the Rule of Law is an optional composition of our democracy. There is no incentive to follow the Law of the Land nor is there much disincentive to do crime because the best way to judge a society is how it treats its prisoners. The prisoners are our leaders and they are treated very well- why rough it out on the outside when you can have free medical treatment, free meals, free education and a beer or two in jail?

Call to Action (13 March 2008)

“You just don’t understand.” That is the mantra that I have been hearing from my elders of late…that I don’t understand. Wait a minute here- is it not the youth who are supposed to accuse the hardened fossils of failing to sympathise and empathise? Are we not the ones who are supposed to bemoan the aloofness of our parents and not the other way around? There’s obviously some sort of disconnect because it just does not add up.

I took it upon myself to find out exactly what it is that I don’t understand. Which, in fact, I think is a whole lot of hogwash because I deem myself pretty intelligent and “with it” so the mere notion of me missing the point baffles me to say the least! As I delved into the darkness of my ignorance I have realized that it has nothing to do with being techno savvy or being able to keep up with the latest trends on the stock market- it is indeed something so simple and uncomplicated that I am ashamed that it never really dawned to me until quite recently.

My newly acquired knowledge opened my eyes to the apathy of my generation (born roughly between 1978 and 1987)- the silent killer of hope and the source of my elders’ wails. Gone is the liberation struggle and the once bright lights of their heroes (save the Madibas and Tutus of this world) are now dimming. I was horrified to find out that one of my good friends thought that Chief Albert Luthuli died “sometime after our liberation, didn’t he?”

Some peers even have the audacity to roll their eyes when the Apartheid years are mentioned and don’t understand why people just don’t “get over it.” Sadly, our parents still look upon those days poignantly- the fear and frustration of living under inhumane oppression, the helplessness and anger of not being in control of your own life but what really sticks our in their minds is the camaraderie and hope of a better future.

See, every oppressed young person who cared about having a worthwhile future back “in the old days” had a purpose in life- a dream which started becoming reality on 24 April 1994.

One of my favourite stories that my father told me was how I was named. He says that my name came to him in a dream- not unlike Joseph. In this dream, he was instructed to name me Kholofelo (a traditionally feminine Sepedi name) whether I am a girl or a boy. Kholofelo means hope. Hope of a better future and that the daily prayer of my people will one day be answered.

The consciousness of our parents permeated into the very names that they gave us. These “African” names were purposefully given to us- if not in a quest to defy the system then in an attempt to reclaim their stolen dignity and to endow pride and identity upon their offspring. The very names which we then change from Lerato to Lira and Nonhlanhla to Noni just so we don’t offend mainstream culture even though African languages are the most widely spoken this country.

OK, fine, we are the “Gen-Xers”, the “Lost Generation” the “Latch-key kids” and the “M-TV Generation” among a slew of other names that have been duly bestowed upon us. It’s all good and well to be categorised and put in boxes but let that not be an excuse for us to be a generation of losers. The whole world is panicking about the aging population and the skills and leaders that are going to elude us within the next fifteen years. Yet it doest not seem to bother us because it is not our fault. There are many social challenges which we are very quick to point out as not our fault- that may be true but they are definitely our problem.

We might not have an Apartheid Regime to dismantle but we are faced with the HIV/ AIDS endemic which is claiming our lives in droves- 50% South Africa’s youth aged 16-24 are infected with the virus and for the most part, it is our fault. The majority of us might not be tear-gassed on our way to school and work but we are all affected by crime and the majority of the perpetrators do actually fall into our age group so we have to own that too. Some of us might not have to still travel 10 kilometres to the nearest source of fresh water but we are all now faced with a power crisis that threatens the very ability of our country to develop and thus ensure that nobody is without food, water, electricity and shelter. Instead of sitting around, whining and threatening to leave the country we should be researching feasible and sustainable solutions and frankly cashing in where the establishment has failed to act.

Undeniably, our generation’s biggest challenge is to show that Africa and more specifically South Africa can. The majority of countries on our “Dark Continent” (literally) are celebrating more than four decades of freedom from their former Colonial powers. The fourth wave of democratic elections is raising its head, ready to ripple through this land. In many instances civil war and debilitating indebtedness is ebbing away- some African countries are for the first time experiencing positive economic growth and exporting more than just raw materials. We are far from paradise but with more resolve, dedication, and focus, we can right ourselves on future history books as an influential force in global affairs.

In order for us to tackle this tremendous responsibility of catapulting our nation (and subsequently continent) into prosperity, we need to stop disassociating ourselves with our government and institutions. The constituents of South Africa are responsible for endowing power upon our leaders and should therefore shoulder their triumphs and disgraces. We also have the power to question dubious policies and ultimately remove the pariahs from their duties. Gone are the days of lackadaisical attitudes and sunny cotton fields- unless if we treat every societal, economic, and political ill as a crisis, we will continue to wait with bated breath for some-one to do something at our own detriment.

We are the indulged generation and epitomize “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Our lack of patriotism and commitment sees us flocking to the North for “greener pastures” as quickly as we change our mates and jobs. It is this very mindset that will cripple our local economy because of the capital flight and in this instance it is our skills that will be missed. This is our time to shine, let us prove the Baby Boomers who are just waiting for us to prove them right. Let us follow in the footsteps of people like Mark Zuckerberg and make what we know best work for us. As Ralph Waldo Emerson aptly puts it: “What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen."

Musings (20 Feb 2008)

It's been quite a while since I blogged in my sense of the word- bugging out and just expressing my thoughts, fears, aspirations, wackiness, hopes...whatever and putting it in writing. I guess it's a more modern way of interactive journaling, which is good coz I was never good at keeping journals. Maybe that's why there is so much mayhem in my head...if I expressed those thoughs externally, I might have peace of mind and piece of mind coz mine is all cluttered, buttered, placated, dissolved- see where I am going with this?

I guess the outstanding theme of my life lately is darkness and confusion... As a passionate Pan- African and one that loves her patria deeply, the darkness that has rolled itself comfortably into my world is quite alarming- it has really shaken me and I am now questioning the very core of my faith in this lovely continent of ours. Being in Kenya over Christmas 2007 and New Year 2008 opened my eyes to what African can be with a lot of hard work and greasing of palms. I literally fell in love with that country and its people...literally. For the first time in a long time I felt like I was in Africa in all her beauty and splendor; a land alive with opportunities. From the hustle and bustle of the markets to the serene beauty of the Rift Valley...I was enthralled. As quickly as I was lifted to the clouds the images of ordinary citizens running for their lives as they ducked live bullets jolted me back to reality and reminded me TIA (this is Africa) in a very harsh way.

I am very critical of those who choose to blast African countries for their lack of resources or "first world convenience" because really, if you want those luxuries, you don't belong here! In my humble opinion, Africa is for those who are committed to working hard in order to realise something so magnificent and so REAL that one cannot help it but be excited. Yes, it's been over forty years since Independence for many African states. Yes, many African nations are plagued by kleptocracy and disregard for the Rule of Law. Yes, many African countries are the poster children of corruption. Yes, our land is characterised by dependency, poverty, disease, and internal strife. All of this has been stated, now what? I might be an Idealist and very Utopian in my outlook on life but it has rained and poured in Africa, there are still snow storms ahead but when that sunshine comes blazing through, the rainbow is going to be this ethereal myriad of colour and Afro-pessimists can have their field days- that day will come, albeit (as it always is on this continent) running way behind schedule.

So I'm excited about the future and look forward to Africa being portrayed as beautiful and lush as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and not as pitiful as the desert before manna floated down from the sky. I sometimes think that there is only one picture in the big news networks' archives of Africa and that's of a child with an extended belly, calmly swatting flies from his sticky face and looking into the camera with big, soulful eyes and they just flash it on the scene every time Africa is mentioned. That picture makes me bawl everytime I see it because to the rest of the world that is what Africa is: helpless and hopeless. I want that to change because it's an image that is not wholly representative of who I am and what my experience has been on this continent. I can proudly say that I have experienced Africa the "African way" and I've also eked out a "first world" experience on this very soil- I know both sides of the coin and there is beauty in being Afropolitan. That's what I want my compatriots from Cape to Cairo and Cabo Verde and to Mauritius to experience- first class Afrolivity.

BUT the recent events in Kenya and load-shedding in South Africa has clouded my dream a little. Here are two beacons of African success that are slowly losing face in the international community, among fellow members of the African community and most importantly to their own people. Both the Kibaki and Mbeki administrations catapulted their respective countries into the limelight of African economic and governance success. Investor confindence hit all time highs and the middle class expanded creating a feeling of euphoria for the tangibility of success. Not to say that either country is doomed at this stage because I believe in the tenacity of both but it will take great effort to unmangled what has been tangled and to build public trust in the regimes.

It's time for Africans to be innovative and to start being part of the solution. The heyday of ethic conflict is long gone, there is no more time for finger-pointing, blame shifting and throwing hands in the air in exasperation- it is really crunch time and those that choose to remain Kenyan and South African will stay on and fight for normality (as warped as it is) to be restored.

The facts are all there- both countries are making globabl headliness- in Kenya almost every prominent leader of the free world has come, gone, and put in their two cents worth but ultimately it is up to Kenyans to forgive and forget and to move on. 2010 is sitting on our couch and beyond that, the responsibility that South Africa has to millions of its people that have never switched on an electical lights is still hanging over our heads. Let's not forget that charity begins at home because if you ignore those voices that are in the majority...things just might fall apart.

I think my mind has worked overtime because I'm struggling to string sentences together...but this is just what it is. We need to claim our own lives back- we can't wait for the George Bushes and Bonos of this world to tell us how to clean our own pots. We must listen to all the advice and the regroup and find solutions that will work for us- sanctions or no sanctions.