Friday, June 26, 2015

Winterschool Diaries

            An evening with the legendary Pops Mohamed at this years VANSA Winterschool.

I came to Winterschool to rediscover my writing.
To find the reason why I enjoyed putting pen to thoughts.
I came to get unstuck.
To learn and experience and absorb.

I left with a better understanding of my journey.
I left with new-found bonds.
I left unstuck and deeply satisfied
But mostly I left with my senses invigorated and alive!

Let the story begin.



Sunday, June 21, 2015

America Expecting A Bumper Crop Of Terrorism

We've all read about or heard the claims that a great many terrorist organizations operating throughout the world are creations of the CIA.
I used to think that this was crazy conspiracy-talk, until I actually started reading up on the subject matter.

I'd go into the long and sordid history of the CIA and it's links to these organizations, including it's funding of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but there are hundreds of online sources that would do a much better job of it including this one right here: Counterpunch

That the Middle East is an absolute quagmire of death, desperation and dollars and will remain so for as long as the West can profit from oil and arms to the region has been apparent for longer than the words 'Peace Treaty' have been bandied about. What is interesting though is how the fallout from the perfect shit-storm that's embattled the Middle East for so long is now being felt in the very heart of America.

I spoke to an Egyptian friend of mine not too long ago. He travels regularly back and forth between his home country and South Africa on business. On his last trip home he engaged a family member of his who happens to be very involved in the political situation in Egypt.
The Arab-Springs and the great hope that the Egyptian people had for democracy.
How they realized very quickly that the will of the people was really no match for political maneuverings between the Egyptian army and America.
How Sisi was chosen to be a proxy-leader long before the first bullet was even fired in Tahrir Square.
How revolutions are stage-managed to deliver a pre-determined outcome and the role the media plays in advancing hidden agendas.
Only a select handful of those in the know really do understand what the end game is about.
It truly was eye-opening for me to realize that activism and revolutions are really up against a foe a hundred-fold more powerful and prepared than the cause they think they're fighting.

With all this lobbying and stage-managing, it turns out that the one thing the West and in particular America never could control was it's own people in it's own backyard.

When American citizens commit acts of terror, both law enforcement and the media are galvanized into a frenzy of pigeon-holing either victim or suspect. They need to assign labels to better stage-manage public perception and the resultant reaction.
So black, minority, non-Caucasian or Muslim suspects of acts of terror will immediately be labeled 'terror suspects'.
White suspects will invariably be labeled 'sick', 'deranged', 'lone-gunman' or 'troubled individuals' with no mention of religion or ethnicity.
Read this piece from The Washington Post

Why this burning need to differentiate between American-Caucasian terror and American-non-Caucasian terror?
Well because the CIA, war lobby groups, the NRA and the White House are and always have been white institutions. By acknowledging white terrorism, they would need to acknowledge the terrorism within their ranks. While the immediate perception to those highlighting this bias in reporting would be one of racism, the underlying reality is actually a massive failure by white America and it's Board Of Directors to keep the leash on it's own.

How then do we make the link between American-led wars throughout the world and especially in the Middle East, and homegrown American terrorists plying their trade from within?
As my friend so aptly put it, once you create a culture of impunity against gross acts of violence by the state against another, you can't expect it's citizens to be law-abiding. More-so, if those acts were justified by virtue of an "Us-And-Them" mentality, as is the case with America and Arabs or America and Any-Other-Nation, then it really isn't a great leap to see how terrorism within America is between Whites and Blacks, or Whites and Minorities, or Whites and Muslims.

The chickens have come home to roost in cities across America, and until the leadership doesn't change it's war-rhetoric from "Us-And-Them", they shouldn't expect it's homegrown terrorists to.






Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Friends With Benefits


At some point I considered making this blog of mine anonymous.
Not just this post, but the entire blog.
But vanity prevailed, thank goodness. The same vanity which has me coming back each week just to see how many visitors have stumbled upon my writing, most by pure chance but certainly none by actually seeking out any writing of interest or quality content.

It is these stumblers that I address when I say that you have found the bunghole of the blogosphere right here.
I don't use that term 'Bunghole' lightly.
It has recently come to aptly describe my year, my most recent business venture, certain family relations and even friendships new and old.

I've finally closed chapters on friends and family that were open for far too long in the hope that I could re-write the endings. Sometimes the ending happened long before we even realized the story was over.
Some chapters were harder to close than others.
Words lingered, like the smell of camphor after death. But in those words I realized why closure was so important. Like waking up one morning and finding out that you've been adopted, or that your siblings are actually not your own blood and flesh. Or that your cat is actually a goldfish.
You linger and ponder and die.
Or you close the chapter, move on and live.
So I chose life.

Sometimes you have to close the chapter on business ventures too.
You bite the bullet, lift your socks and move on.
You pen the final chapter and acknowledge the lessons and experiences; and you're all the wiser for it. I've learned that I have an insane appetite for risk and adventure. That I have no fear of starting from the bottom. That I have an enormous amount of faith in myself and my abilities. And mostly I learned that I have the most amazing support structure in my wife and kids. They see me as some kind of Superhero who can never fail them, and so I don my Superhero costume each day to prove them right.
And each night I come home to tell them about my adventurous day and watch their eyes light up, and in that moment I feel like the guy who can beat Hulk or Superman.

In closing all these chapters, I've found an inner peace that's allowed me to appreciate the stories yet unwritten.
The friendships I have, both old and new.
People who just get me, and who I would take a bullet for. Not in the head, and not one made of lead either. Maybe a jelly-baby bullet. Or a cupcake bullet. But a bullet nonetheless.
The kind of friends I'd like to grow old with some day.
The kind who would have chapter upon chapter dedicated to them in my book of life.
The kind of friends who are in my inner circle.
The ones who's only benefit is making life worth living.

Here's to bunghole friends everywhere.
The kind who will pull you out of one, and if they can't, they'll get right in there with you and make it bearable.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Why? The Beloved Country

It's been too long since I last came to dip my toes in the pool of thoughts that is my blog.
Since then, so much has happened and so much is still happening.

I read a headline just the other day that said "South Africa Up In Flames!"
Well yes we've been having some issues with fires lately, but our firemen are world-class and our mountains are resilient. My international visitors to the blog (yes both of you) will be glad to know that Signal Hill and Table Mountain are just fine, thank you very much.... and through it all, we as a nation continued braaing. (That's Barbecue for my European crowd.. both of you).

The same probably can't be said for the foreigners who call South Africa 'Home'. It's been a frightening and distressing time for many Somalians, Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals living within our borders. For the first time our brothers living in the capital of Nigeria, Hillbrow, are looking at each other going "What drugs are these people on?"
I drove through Hillbrow the other day and this guy shouted into my window "My friend, ged auwt of my cowntree!"
He called me his friend.
But then he also told me to 'ged auwt of his cowntree'.
I was about to correct his pronunciation but he looked at least twice my size. Also he said it so threateningly I was almost convinced that I had gone too far down the N1 and instead of taking Rivonia offramp like I intended, maybe I had taken the Lagos offramp.
The chain he wore around his neck convinced me that he didn't give two f@#ks about the price of gold.
Like my Indian friend who's cooking convinces me that he doesn't give two f@#ks about the price of oil.

I have a deep love and respect for the treasure chest that is Africa, but an even deeper love and admiration for the Pandora's Box that is South Africa.
Africa has always been regarded as this beautiful continent beset with evils and riddled with war-zones. The next piece I write will certainly discuss this further, suffice to say that I have traveled enough across the globe to know that the suffering of Africa's people and the pillage of her resources were carried out by the very colonialists who now mock her sorry state.

Yet this melting-pot of all the planets evils and good and crime and beauty and madness and awesomeness still welcomes the world to her shores with open arms.
People across every continent know South Africans for their warmth, their generosity, their spirit and their fine spirits. We are like the grandmother to the world, always embracing and never closing our doors.

For those unfamiliar with one of the most brilliant political documents to ever have been penned, The Freedom Charter, I quote a line from said document which reads
We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:
that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people;
The complete document can be found here

I wish more people would take the time to read this document, and by more people I mean specifically those who are committing xenophobia without even knowing how to spell it.

The first rule about committing any act, legal or illegal, should firmly be :

#If you can't spell it, you can't do it!



If you can't spell Hijacking, you have no right being a Hijacker.
If you can't spell Polygamist, you have no right being one.
If you can't spell Corruption, then Corruption is not for you.
If you can't spell Statue, you shouldn't attempt to demolish one.
The same applies to Xenophobia.

I've decided to vastly increase my political knowledge this year, in the hope that I can better understand the socio-economic issues facing my fellow countrymen. I have become increasingly critical of all political parties and their manifestos. I have an allegiance to one political party simply because I firmly believe that their manifesto and Bill Of Rights is inherently a sound document which speaks to my ethos and beliefs. The Bill Of Rights can be found here
But I am critical of my party as well.
Extremely so.
For blind faith ultimately leaves everyone blind.

While I understand that my country is burning, I am also aware that there are very many within this beautiful land I call Home who's passion and commitment to making South Africa work burns even fiercer. I have seen and engaged with the youth who have such an amazing belief in the future of South Africa, that I am left with no option but to encourage and support that dream and vision.
And while crime and poverty and corruption and every other societal ill known to man seems to grow like a cancer amongst us, my faith and conviction will never allow me to throw my hands in the air and give up.

As William Wallace so famously said in Braveheart,

"Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!"

There are many scourges that we need to rid our country of, and the divide between those who see it purely as criminal and those who see it as a socio-economic problem is so vast. I'm really trying to understand it from both perspectives.
Sometimes it's like reading the Kama Sutra in the dark.
You know what's in there, and you know that it's damn exciting, but the darkness prevents you from actually seeing anything.
We know the problems we face, and we're intelligent enough as a nation to understand them, but the solutions evade us. I think we as a nation need to start looking at our problems through the eyes of someone sitting in the dark, trying to read the Kama Sutra.
Focus so intently on seeing the bigger picture, that nothing else really matters.

Until then, I will continue my political education and corrupt it with as much sexual innuendo as I possibly can. Only because these are two topics I am passionate about.


 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Buttocks & Brains

My article as posted on News24 Voices
September 20, 2014

The Darwin Awards have been around since the mid 1980′s and are awarded to individuals who remove themselves from the gene pool in an effort to aid human evolution. Think of it as HTH for a green pool, where the algae represents the dumbest of the dumb that humanity has to offer.

It’s such a pity then that politicians who really should be striving to attain Darwin Award status, are instead multiplying and breeding faster than slum-rats. Wouldn’t this world be a much lovelier place in the absence of politicians, and bankers too for that matter?

Famous people say dumb things all the time, and celebrities seem to bask in the glory of their faux pas fame.
Take Brooke Shields for example, who once famously said “Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.” Now some might say that Brooke was never the sharpest tool in the shed, and admittedly her claim to fame relied more on her looks than her brains, but when you’re Governor Of California one would hope that you were elected because you have some degree of intelligence. Arnold Schwarzenegger proved this theory false when he said “I think Gay Marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.” Money is no guarantee either that the words coming out of your mouth will first have been processed by your brain. Mariah Carey was lampooned for once having said “Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can’t help but cry. I mean I’d love to be skinny like that but not with all those flies and death and stuff.

South African politics has not been spared a spanking with the Stupid Stick.
Just this month our Minister Of Water And Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, was quoted as saying “We will defend Zuma with our buttocks.” Feminists throughout the country were left gobsmacked and members of the ANC Women’s League hurriedly convened a pre-protest protest to protest against any protest against Minister Mokonyane. One never knows who the ANC Women’s League is going to throw their weight behind (no pun intended) as their decisions over the last few years have left many wondering exactly who this league actually represents.
The ANC Women’s League have become the R. Kelly of politics.
Just when you really started getting into them and appreciating what they are all about, they go and pee on someone and make you question their agenda.

So while the ruling party had it’s spin doctors working harder than the aspirant black tea-girl at a DA caucus meeting, trying to explain Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s statements as harmless, the rest of the educated populace knew that the damage had already been done. Young girls in the country with the highest rape statistics had just heard a political leader endorse the use of her buttocks to defend a man she had no marital relationship with. Scarier still is that every time our leaders say daft things and come under ridicule and criticism, their default setting is to use culture as a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card.
Suddenly it became a cultural idiom that the rest of us non-Sepedi speaking people just never understood.

If you’re going to defend a fellow comrade, why not defend him with your words.
If you’re forced to defend him with a bodily part, maybe choose one other than your buttocks.
If by some miraculous alignment of the cosmos you simply have to defend your comrade with your buttocks, do you really want that comrade to be Jacob Zuma?
We know his track record when it comes to buttocks.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Is Criticism Of Israel The New 'K' Word?

As soon as one hears the words "Acting in self defence", we immediately think about Israel and the protection of it's citizens and ensuring their safety. There is without question a very real fear amongst Israeli's that their safety is under threat by Hamas in Palestine and every Middle Eastern country outside it's borders. While much has been made about ex-Iranian leader Ahmadinejad's proclaiming that Israel should be wiped off the map, very little is said about the numerous Israeli politicians and leaders having a desire to "send Gaza back to the middle ages" (Israeli Interior Minister, Eli Yishai) or in the words of Gilad Sharon, son of former leader Ariel Sharon, "“We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza…. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima...."

So it was with interest that I read the many articles posted on numerous websites, editorials and blogs about the genocide taking place in Palestine, and yes I use that word 'genocide' deliberately. When one proclaims to be acting in self-defence, the very first rule is 'reasonable force'. Every humanitarian organization monitoring the situation in Gaza has unequivocally stated that the civilian death toll is unacceptable and Israels bombing of UN schools is a violation of international law.

It's in the reporting of the genocide that I find the arguments for and against Israels aggression most intriguing. Israeli apologists would have you believe that any statement critical of Israel is anti-Semitic. The fact is that there are very many Jews throughout the world who are themselves critical of Israels current bombardment of Palestine. There are very many who would have you believe that exposing Israeli war crimes is an attack on Judaism. There are those who would have you believe that Israels right to self-defense is an all-encompassing right that nullifies the rights of innocent civilians, women and children in Palestine. More worrisome are those who would have you believe that any criticism of Israel is akin to using the 'K' word in public. It's become almost taboo to talk about.

A recent article published by the Afro-Middle East Centre titled "Gaza's Challenges For Journalism" by Jane Duncan was most enlightening.

I post the article in it's entirety for fear of taking excerpts and distorting it's context.

The Israeli attacks on Gaza over the past month has focused attention globally on how Gaza was covered by the media, how much bias there might be in various reports, and whether the objectives of journalism were served by the manner of coverage. Jane Duncan examines the challenges facing journalists in the case of Gaza, and suggest that there are various tasks that journalists must undertake that go beyond the notion of 'balance'

In the past few weeks, the South African media have been dominated by the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza and South Africans have had to rely largely on foreign coverage of this issue to understand it.

The mainstream US media continued parroting the Israeli line that the country was acting in self defence, or insisting on its right to be ‘free from tunnels and rockets’, in Secretary of State John Kerry’s words, but Israel is clearly meting out collective punishment to Palestinians. At a deeper level, though, Israel’s motivation might well be to scupper Palestinian unity (albeit strained) after years of bitter conflict between Hamas and Fatah, and the killing of three Israeli teenagers provided a pretext to do just that. A united Palestine would be deeply threatening to Israeli interests.

What are the tasks of journalism in South Africa in reporting on Gaza? Mainstream journalism is not as embedded in the governmental power structure as it is in the USA, giving it a greater degree of autonomy to tell important but difficult stories.

Nevertheless, there is a temptation to rely on foreign news agencies for their copy, increased by the massive resource constraints in many newsrooms. Reporting on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict often unleashes massive emotional responses from South Africans. Journalists working on this beat may also be tempted to produce sanitised copy, adhering to the basic tenets of ‘objective’ journalism to avoid becoming embroiled in energy-consuming controversies.

This form of journalism is, however, a cop-out, and ultimately a route away from good journalism, rather than a route towards it. ‘Objective’ journalism requires journalists to practise a number of strategic rituals, including seeking balance by quoting the spokespeople in a conflict, even if the spokespeople themselves have not been eyewitnesses to the events they are asked to speak about. Ostensibly, a journalist’s task has been discharged once the story has been ‘balanced’ in this way.

This ritual can lead to journalists not wanting to take sides on matters of considerable public importance when they really need to. ‘Balance’ means that they don’t have to go out on a limb and assess who is right and who is wrong, or whether the viewpoints being presented are just or unjust. This is not to suggest that both sides should not be quoted, but that the enquiry should not end once they are. ‘Balance’ should not be used as an excuse to avoid investigation, and even independent thinking.

Take the Israel Defense Force claim that it bombed a UN school housing refugees from the conflict, because the rockets had been fired ‘from the vicinity of the school’. This explanation should raise red flags for any enquiring journalist, yet there is little evidence of the foreign media having probed this claim; the story had been balanced, and hence concluded.

Hamas’s members are not angels; some have committed despicable acts. But significant struggles are rarely free from contradictions. Yet, in spite of its messiness, at a fundamental level, there is a right and a wrong in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unquestionably, Israel is using force that is disproportionate to the level of threat it faces. It operates in a global climate of near impunity, disrespecting international law, and getting away with it because it has powerful friends.

The modern state of Israel was founded on the dispossession and displacement of Palestinians. Even after the creation of the Palestinian Authority, Israel continued to expand its settlements and deprived the Palestinian territory of substantial autonomy by controlling many basic functions that a sovereign state would otherwise control. In Gaza, conditions have been aggravated by the blockade since 2006. Israel’s expansionist policies have fuelled deep resentment, and no lasting peace can come out of a fundamentally unjust situation.

These conditions have turned Palestinian life into a living hell. It is in this context that the Palestinian resistance movement has been launching rockets into Israel. An often-heard argument is that Israel has a right to self defence, but somehow the same right doesn’t apply to Palestinians.

Under international law, occupied populations have a right to resist, including militarily, providing that this resistance does not target civilians. In this regard, much has been made of the fact that Palestinian rockets have been targeted at civilians, but the vast majority of those killed by Israeli strikes have been civilians, which makes them guilty of the very crime they accuse Hamas of.

Israel supporters will no doubt cry ‘bias’ if journalists make these points, but the situation is inherently unbalanced. If journalists point this out, they are not being biased; rather, they are being balanced in a much more meaningful sense.

Journalism should be defined by values, rather than by strategic rituals; otherwise it risks becoming an unthinking, unreflective practice. These values should include a commitment to truth telling, particularly in situations where powerful actors want to hide the truth to maintain their grip on power. If journalists fail to recognise the fundamental rights and wrongs in a situation, they abdicate their democratic responsibilities to society. The journalism of objectivity and balance should not trump the journalism of justice and truth.
Journalism will also be a lifeless activity without a commitment to democracy and social justice. This means prioritising the stories of people who are silenced or marginalised by mainstream discourses, as they often tell us a great deal about how social power really functions.

The public sphere tends to be an elite space, which means that, all too often, media discourses come to us already inherently unbalanced. The Israeli state has tremendous traction in the mainstream foreign media, which places an obligation on journalists to seek out the voices of those displaced and disadvantaged by its policies, and social media make this much more possible than it was six years ago, when Gaza flared up.

There are those who are queasy about condemning Israel’s actions too loudly, given the historical context in which the country was established. As pro-Israeli Jews turn into oppressors themselves, they destroy the moral authority of this argument and fuel the very danger that they claim to want to protect against, namely anti-Semitism. Journalists, and all of civil society, must condemn anti-Semitism – which is antithetical to basic democratic values – as and when it occurs.

The Israeli state is on a road to nowhere, and the status quo is unsustainable in the long term. Global mass action, including through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, is an important force for change in the region. This is where global public opinion becomes important, as do media framings of these events, which can make or break global movements.

Journalists should not be put off by false arguments. One of the more prominent is that critics pick on Israel, while staying silent about conflicts in Syria and Iraq, because they are anti-Semitic. These arguments are based on the fallacy of relative privation, or ‘whataboutery’, which asserts that Israel’s problems should be ignored because there are more important problems in the world, especially the Muslim world.

This line of argument should be recognised for what it is: as an attempt to deflect criticisms of one of the most longstanding regional conflicts in the world, and one that is eminently capable of being resolved if its primary financiers committed themselves to doing so in a just manner. Furthermore, ‘whataboutery’ proponents should also be put the test, to see if they themselves act on their criticisms and mobilise against the very injustices they decry. In any event, many of Israel’s critics do criticise other unjust regimes.

Journalists should also encourage South Africans to take positions on the conflict on the basis of what is right and wrong, rather than on more dubious bases, such as racial or religious solidarity. They are in a unique position to promote forward-looking debates on the conflict and on other countries’ roles in its resolution, given South Africa’s own experience of oppression, followed by transition (however incomplete).

Hamas has also demonstrated openness to political solutions, a fact which is often lost in the western-mediated framing of the movement. In this regard, it is clear that the two-state solution is not viable, given Israel’s de facto control over the Palestinian territories. Yet the South African government continues to cling to the two-state solution; therefore, engaging with this debate is important for foreign policy reasons.

Support is growing internationally for a one-state solution, which could involve a binational state or a secular, unitary state. A binational solution would appear to the more realistic option, but will entrench Palestinian and Israeli identities as separate, increasing the likelihood of sub-national conflict in the future. This solution will also undermine Palestinians refugees’ inalienable right of return to the territories that they had been displaced from.

A secular, unitary state, similar to the one that South Africa adopted, is likely to be resisted by many supporters of Israel, who see it as the destruction of Israel by other means. Unfortunately, the word ‘destruction’ conjures up images of a violent path to building the nation, which ignores the fact that what is being proposed is a democratic path.

It must not be assumed that Palestinian and Israeli identities are so fixed that they are incapable of progressive transformation towards a more shared identity. Democratic theories of nation formation, including African theories, demonstrate that this is very possible. In any event, a state where Jews are persecuted will not be a democratic secular state, but an authoritarian nationalist one.

South African journalism is dominated by the professional model with its strategic rituals of objectivity and balance. But there are welcome signs of a greater diversity of journalistic practices, including civic journalism and advocacy journalism. These alternative models do not betray basic journalistic tenets; on the contrary, they enrich journalism.

Assessments of the state of South African journalism are often filled with doom and gloom, especially given recent threats to media freedom and the evisceration of many newsrooms. But this should not detract from the fact that the sector is also filled with great promise, and a real potential to contribute to positive changes to some of the world’s most intractable problems.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Street Store: Charity Unplugged

In December 2013, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF UK) released their latest world survey on giving, volunteering and helping strangers. The 'World Giving Index 2013' ranked South Africa 69 out of 135 countries surveyed. The full report published here http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/WorldGivingIndex2013_1374AWEB.pdf  found that South Africans are more likely to give of their time than they are of their money.

So why is it that we hold on tighter to our money than we do to our time, and of what benefit is this to charities who are in much need of both?
Well the simple answer is that as a nation, the infestation of corruption that has filtered into every aspect of our lives starting from our political leadership at the top down to our civil servants and ordinary citizens at the bottom has placed huge negative connotations on anything that relates to money and our dispensing of it. According to the Washington Post, only one-third of all monies donated to charities actually ends up with the poor, the homeless and the destitute. That's their best case scenario.
The bulk of the money, or at the very least 70% of it, goes toward running the charity (think admin, rentals, salaries, advertising etc). Put in Rands and Cents terms, that equates to just 30 cents of every Rand actually ending up with the people who need it most!
That right there is the problem I have with donating money to charities.

Not taking anything away from the really great work that charities do, and taking into account that the vast pool of funds they receive in donations does allow them to charter planes and ships laden with food, medical and other emergency supplies to relief and disaster zones, there is something to be said about seeing the smile upon the face of the person you've just helped out directly.
Gift Of The Givers is a fine example of a charity that has been built on a reputation of focusing on the needy and dismissing the greedy. They have been First Responders to natural disasters both in South Africa and across the world, and rival such giants in the field as the Red Cross and MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres).

Many amongst us misconstrue the word 'Charity' and assume it to mean only 'the giving of money to the poor.'  There's a very good reason why the World Giving Index includes not only financial donations, but also donations of one's time as well as the act of helping a stranger. Some of the poorest countries in the world rank amongst the Top 50 nations on the index, justifiably so because their societies promote social donations of time and selfless help.

Those are the facts and they speak for themselves.
Naysayers would advocate restraint to any and all forms of monetary donations, citing dependency by those less fortunate on those doing the giving. I've read reports by credible journalists and NGO's who speak of the very culture of begging and how easily it can be manipulated by those out to feed their greed instead of a need.  The public ultimately becomes desensitized to the plight of the poor, the homeless and the destitute because there is the very real sense that our donations, although intended for a good cause, may simply be feeding a lifestyle of dependency on charity. The downside to this is that the woman at the robot desperate for a few rands to feed her family or pay her rent or do any one of a hundred things that her very survival depends upon, the very same things we would take for granted on any given day, is simply dismissed with a wave of our hands.

It was a breath of fresh air than to receive an invite to be part of an initiative that aimed to accomplish so many great things under one single humanitarian umbrella.
To be part of a cause that would clothe the homeless.
To restore the dignity and pride of those who have it stripped from them on a daily basis.
To actually see hopelessness and uncertainty be replaced by hope and gratitude on the smiling faces of the homeless.
To being an activator within my community, moving people toward active participation in a common cause.
To be able to achieve all of this without asking anybody to open their wallets, only their hearts and cupboards.

You may have heard of  The Street Store.
Their website found here http://thestreetstore.org/  explains exactly why they have such a huge fan base. People finally have the opportunity to get involved without ever wondering if their donations enriched any lives. They get to see the answer on the faces of the homeless. This is what I loved most about this initiative. It's not about the money. It's about having people who have been overlooked by society and stripped of all dignity, feel like they are worthy once again. The simple act of  'shopping' for free clothing on the day and being spoken to like a person, being attended to like a gentleman or a lady, being served upon by others just for this one day which they may never experience again, is more uplifting and rewarding to them than all the coins we could fling out our windows as we drive casually by at the robot.

The initiative was a huge success in Cape Town, as it's been in other parts of the world. 19 July see's it finally arriving in Johannesburg, and the response so far has been nothing short of exhilarating!

I chatted to Sumaya Hendricks, the organizer of this event and this is what she had to say.
"There are various elements of the project which I find appealing. Although the 'coolness' of the idea is attractive and draws people to the initiative, there is something much deeper to it. The people who we are going to be helping might be someone we ignored at a robot or perhaps condescendingly looked at as we felt they could do more to help themselves. Yet, at the street store, we are going to give them our time, a smile and treat them with the kind of respect they deserve but don't often get. They will become people in our eyes when often we see and treat them otherwise. So they will be helping us as much as we will be helping them - we have become so immune to poverty and hopefully this will help us to connect to those in need and act as a springboard to do more in our communities."

Remember that word 'Ubuntu'?
I know what I will be doing this Mandela Day.
Do you?



"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal."
Albert Pike (1809-1891)