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  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  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)

Monday, June 23, 2014

EFF Barking Up The Right Tree

On 16th May 2014, South Africa’s 5th democratic parliament received the list of 400 designated members for the National Assembly as well as the list of members for the Provincial Legislatures. Having elected the steering committee and Captain for SS South Africa, the nation has effectively placed the charting of a new and hopefully prosperous course through daunting waters in the hands of these 400 individuals over the next 5 years.

With the ruling party comfortably in the majority with 249 of those 400 seats, the question is really “How effective will the opposition be in keeping checks and balances to the ANC’s rule?”
The official opposition garnered 89 seats, but having been the official opposition since the 1999 general elections, one begins to wonder if there is any bite left in the DA bark.
With the arrival of the new kids on the block in the form of the EFF, I suspect we will suddenly become more enthusiastic and intrigued by the goings-on within parliamentary walls. For the first time since 1994, discussions around the water-cooler at offices across the country centered around the swearing-in of  members into parliament. While the focus may have been around the EFF dress-code, it is undeniable that the EFF know the right buttons to push to get people talking and to have the nation once again taking an interest in our countries politics.

With 25 seats to show for their first standing in the general elections, we would be foolish to write them off as a one-hit wonder. I seriously doubt that the EFF will follow in the footsteps of Cope, who came onto the scene with a bang and self-imploded with a fizzle. The EFF have certainly taken very many lessons from other political parties before them who may have started with the best of intentions, but allowed in-fighting and ego’s to be their ultimate downfall.

With the growing number of disgruntled ANC members feeling frustrated at not having an avenue to channel their frustration, either because their loyalty won’t allow them to vote for another party or because they simply choose to abstain from voting, many will now watch with interest at the questions being posed by the EFF. For many within the ruling party and even some amongst the official opposition, the EFF has presented a mouthpiece where once silent dissent was the only option. I suspect that on a vast array of issues, party politics dictated that members remain silent even if they held opposing views. I have no doubt that on issues such as the Arms Deal, HIV Aids and Thabo Mbeki’s recall, many within the ANC held very strong views which they were afraid to voice for fear of victimization or simply being left out in the cold by the majority. The same can be said for the DA. Lindiwe Mazibuko’s exit and subsequent media statements speaks volumes about the dissatisfaction within the party. Again I have no doubt that there are very many issues which polarizes DA members, but ultimately they choose to tow the party line.
When you’re part of a political behemoth which the ANC undoubtedly is, it’s easy to have your voice drowned out. Sometimes it takes the little guy on the outside to make people sit up and listen. Almost a case of David and Goliath one could imagine.

While many readers may feel that the EFF are nothing more than racists with no political backbone and too much of personal agendas, one cannot shy away from the fact that very many of the questions they have posed speak directly to the heart of their constituency.
Issues surrounding poverty, job creation and nationalization. Issues surrounding misuse of state funds and corruption. These are issues which have a direct effect on the masses, and the EFF have been quite successful in tapping into exactly what the masses want to be tabled and addressed.  The privileged few, the middle class and the employed would find their utterances to be no more than an annoyance or counter-productive howling; a fly that needs to be swatted at with contempt and disgust. The reality is that the issues they speak about resonate with a much larger and more attentive group; the youth and the unemployed, the disenfranchised and those scraping the bottom of the economic trough. When society needs to galvanize opposition to government policies or simply show dissatisfaction in the form of marches and strikes, it’s not the privileged few nor the middle-class we see in the front lines. It’s those fighting for living wages, or any wage at all. It’s that very demographic that the EFF speaks to. That demographic is in the majority, whether we accept this as fact or not.

When was the last time you saw a blue-collar middle-income or upper class individual standing at the front of a march or leading a strike or doing anything that would qualify him or her as an activist fighting a cause or standing up against injustice or oppression?
Hitting ‘Like’ on a Facebook cause or commenting on an online article doesn’t count.
The EFF know this.
They also know who their target audience is, and that target audience is getting increasingly hungry and angry.
Hungry and angry.
That’s a combination you never want to see in large numbers.

While you may not agree with many or all of their policies, one would be naive to think that working together with the EFF to find common ground and workable solutions and resolutions is an exercise in futility.
Take the example of what is currently being experienced in much of Europe. By governments consistently believing that they knew better and could dictate what was best for the general public, dissent and dissatisfaction saw the rise in many Right-Wing parties.

One cannot proclaim to be democratic and then balk at the idea of democracy when it no longer serves your objectives. European parliaments now face the prospect of having Right-Wing parties with even stronger right-wing extremist views than they were once comfortable with, now counted amongst their members. While we watch with interest at the unfolding of parliamentary events on our doorstep, the world will be watching with baited breath at the unfolding of events across Europe.

The idea of an EFF ruling party may be too far in the distance to register on the radar just yet, but the questions they pose certainly will make the ruling party uncomfortable. That on it’s own will have achieved the very objective of an opposition party. It’s when parties who govern believe that they can do so unquestioned and with impunity that democracy morphes into anarchy.

If nothing else, the EFF will certainly be barking up the right tree’s and for that reason alone, I for one am glad that we have them in parliament. I may not want them to rule, but I definitely want them making things uncomfortable for those within parliament who don’t like being questioned.

It’s time the ANC realized that parliaments doors are no longer a buffer between their arrogance and the citizens of this country.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

On Being A Patriotic Yet Critical South African

My article as it appeared on News24, May 28, 2014

We have just witnessed another successful and peaceful election in our young democracy, and as South African’s living in an African continent so rife with political change marred by violence and death, we really do have much to celebrate.

While we may be collectively disgruntled by issues of crime, poverty, corruption and a host of social negatives, we should balance our critical outlook of our country with the many positives which justify our flying the patriotic flag well and truly high.

As a student of everything political and economic, I was fascinated to learn that we were one of the very few nations able to weather the storm of the recent economic collapse experienced by countries perceived to have been better equipped with far greater resources, wealth and experience. The economic downturn may have affected everybody, but the leadership we had in our then Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, was of a high enough caliber as to steer a course away from collapse toward economic stability. Allow the gravity of this accomplishment to sink in and applaud it for what it is, for this was no simple task.
For all the things our government got wrong, this was one feat they got right.

When Eliot Rodger opened fire at the University Of California killing 6 students and injuring 13, it brought back memories of the Columbine High School shooting in America in 1999. Since then there have been at least 31 shootings at schools across America, each involving fatalities. In stark contrast to America’s gun laws and the powerful NRA (National Rifle Association) gun lobby, South Africa has for the most part been able to stem the tide of rampant gun ownership. While the argument can certainly be made for the number of illegal guns in circulation and the percentage of crimes committed by firearms, we need to applaud the authorities and government for the firearms policy which attempts to regulate gun ownership. Many gun owners may feel that the systems and checks in place to attain a gain license are nothing more than another tax on citizens. The reality is that gun ownership in South Africa is nowhere near as easy a process as it is in America, where all one requires is a Social Security card and the filling in of a document. The rest is pretty much an over-the-counter purchase.
For all the things our government got wrong, this was another feat they got right.

In a recent panel discussion I was invited to on CII radio, I made mention of the fact that South African’s can be proud of our entrepreneurial spirit and the driving force behind each one of us that makes us want to overcome and succeed. We’ve shown this fighting spirit on the sporting field, in the political arena, across the business spectrum and in innovation. We’ve taken on the best in the world and come out on top on the cricket pitch, on the rugby field, in the swimming pool and in various other sporting codes. We gave the world the CAT scan, open heart surgery, barbed wire, the Kreepy Crawly and Pratley Putty amongst other innovations. We’ve shown that we are able to find solutions when presented with questions and obstacles.
While the world spends at least $1.7 Trillion annually on it’s military, we should not forget that South Africa is the only nation to have ever given up it’s nuclear weapons program voluntarily. We raise our voices each year when presented with alarming facts on what the rest of the world is doing with their nuclear weapons; the destructive power nation’s are trying to achieve in their ability to wipe countries and people off the planet. We should take the time to applaud our own country for it’s stance on nuclear weapons.
While being critical of others, this is a shining example of why we should be patriotic.

The next time we complain about the price of petrol and how we’re getting screwed over by our government or the Ministry Of Energy, perhaps we should take a critical look at how exactly our fuel price at the pumps compares to the rest of the world. You may be surprised to learn that a recent study of 160 developed nations in the world placed South Africa at, wait for it, number 80 on the list of least to most expensive. Have a look at the global index here and you may want to rethink that move to Australia, New Zealand or the UK.

So how do we fare as a nation on the social arena, more specifically with regards to marriages and divorce?
As a barometer of how a countries citizens are engaging each other on a happiness index, and how well our social and moral fabric has integrated into our homes, many regard divorce rates as a good indicator. Since general contentment and happiness outdoors leads to general contentment and happiness indoors, or at least it should, the marriage and divorce arena is a great litmus test. With the release of the latest stats on this topic from StatsSA, a few interesting details stood out. The highest number of divorces were recorded in the 30-40 age group, with 49% of plaintiffs being women. Huge increases in divorce rates were shown in both the Indian and Coloured communities, with an average increase across all colour lines of 23%.

How does this compare to the rest of the world?
Out of 92 countries polled, South Africa was 64 on the list. While we may not be doing as well as Brazil or even China, we’re certainly not as bad as the US, UK, New Zealand or Australia.
Have a look at the list of divorce rates per population here
An interesting factor in divorce trends worldwide is the socio-economic element. With the ever increasing need of double-income households, both men and women or both spouses for LGBT relationships are playing an active role in the work environment. For many couples, this has seen an interesting dynamic where the female or ‘wife’ in the relationship is bringing home the lions share of household income. Stress and Finance has always featured highly in matters of divorce, now more than ever.
A common approach by psychologists and marriage counselors is to focus on the positives and show couples the many elements within their union that they should be grateful for. The belief that a current situation will get better is the beginning of the journey toward contentment.
One of the many things we have every right to be content about is the beauty of the country we call home, and the amazing people we share it with.

In the final analysis, let us never forget that South Africa gave the world it’s greatest icon in Nelson Mandela and presented every budding democracy a blueprint for the finest constitution ever penned.

While there are a great many things to be critical of as South Africans, there are an equally great many things to be proud and patriotic about.

Viva South Africa Viva!

Britain Under Attack!

My article that appeared in News24, May 03, 2014.

This week saw British folk in uproar as their values and culture came under attack, not by an invading army or marauding pirates, not even by suicide bombers or nuclear threats.

The enemy as you may already have feared, is the humble kebab!

So serious is the threat that patriotic British defenders of culture and all things wet and gloomy have garnered over 40000 petitions on their website . As the website name suggests, these brave and clearly hungry for ham Soldiers Of Sandwiches will stop at nothing to defend the honour and pride of the humble pork. The fact that the enemy in this war, the Subway sandwich franchise, has 200 ham-free stores in predominantly Muslim regions out of their total 1500 stores nationwide seems worthy of a Fatwa against Subway.

Why should decent hard-working ham-loving British men, women and children be deprived of their ham sandwich simply because the demographic of the neighbourhood they live in prefers their meat halaal? What is wrong with food giants who spend millions on research and development and product marketting that they have missed completely the barbarity of the halaal slaughtering process? Are local companies like Woolworths and Checkers and Pick n’ Pay hoodwinked into believing that the rigorous process all meat has to go through before being  declared halaal is actually very stringent in standards and quality? Do they not realise the sham that is actually totally barbaric? Surely someone should point out to them that other types of meat which doesnt include animal slaughter (presumably the type where chicken and beef are planted as seeds, watered and harvested in a humane manner) would serve the consumer and their armchair-humanitarian beliefs better.

As a consumer, driving through a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood such as Laudium, or Azaadville, or Roshnee, I should totally expect to find stores catering to pork and ham lovers. After all, everybody knows that business folk are a rather stupid bunch who never do basic concepts like Feasibility Studies or Demographic Research. Thats the very reason why the number 1 Kelvinator freezer store is in Alaska. Eskimo’s desire a good freezer as much as your average muslim family desire a good pork roast on a Sunday.
With all the worthy causes to be fighting and championing throughout the world… poverty, sickness, wars and famine, do these British folk honestly believe that driving a further 10 miles to a store that does serve ham is so great an effort that it requires national and international protest? Really people?

I will defend the right of any man, woman or child to enjoy his or her ham sandwich.
If the store of his choice does not serve ham for whatever reason, I wil defend his right to drive to a store which does.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Deny And Discredit: A Slippery Slope For The ANC

My opinion piece published on News24
April16, 2014

In the time it takes most political parties to entrench their policies and programs into a nations operating system, the ANC has managed to go from being the 'Default Browser' to a virus-infected users cesspool.
Not so long ago, we were dancing in the streets and celebrating a party that belonged to all; a party we were proud to call our own; a party who's leaders led by example and inspired young and old to work together toward the brighter future we were promised. I remember where I was the day I stood in line to cast my first vote in our new democracy. Filled with hope and brimming with pride, the energy of the thousands of voters waiting in line was electric. Victory for the ANC at the ballot was palpable. The only question was how great the winning margin would be.

Fast-forward 20 years and suddenly the very party we once embraced as our own, has degenerated into a pariah we now distance ourselves from.

In truth the rot may have first been exposed during the Mbeki era with the AIDS debacle and the arms deal saga. The warning lights were slowly lighting up, and the nation was starting to sit up and take notice.
Cue the Zuma administration and suddenly it seemed like corruption, nepotism and every other ugly known to politics was in free-fall. Nobody within the Zuma administration was willing to stand up strongly or loudly enough to stop the rot, and when we looked toward the leader himself we found a President so wrapped in securing his party foothold that he forgot the people he served. It suddenly seemed as though the needs of the people became secondary and the desire to cement ranks within the ANC became of utmost importance. Claims of tribalism and factionalism had overpowered discussion on service delivery and job creation. The only jobs being created were for the politically connected few within the walls of parliament. The only services being delivered were the tenders to friends and cronies. Rome for all intents and purposes was burning while inside it's political chambers, orgies of debauchery and opulence were the order of the day.
While the citizens searched for leadership and guidance, the leaders were getting drunk on the public's taxes and patting themselves on the back. When the voices of dissent from the public grew too loud, the leaders would come out and scold the people as though they were little children not worthy of sitting at the adults table.

Leaders like Gwede Mantashe, Cyril Ramaphosa, Fikile Mbalula and Jackson Mthembu have recently come out in scathing attack at anyone who disagrees with the ANC.
No longer are we allowed to simply voice opinion and have it digested for morsels of truth. The danger of having dissent or dialogue by a countries citizens being shut down by a ruling party is that without even noticing, the line between democracy and dictatorship is very quickly crossed. In a true democracy, government would and should engage the people to resolve disputes and conflict. Government must never forget that it is ultimately the people who have voted them in power. It is when government assumes they hold the whip to flog the nation, instead of being the servants of the people, that the foundations of democracy begin to unravel. As citizens we have every right to show dissatisfaction in our government. For the ruling party or any of it's supporters to suggest otherwise is to denounce the very thing ANC stalwarts like Oliver Thambo, Govan Mbeki, Nelson Mandela and others fought for.

It is the duty of every citizen to defend the constitution and denounce wholesale corruption instituted by the state. For the ANC to attempt to discredit independent bodies like the Public Protectors office and oversight committees who are critical of their actions and policies, one has to wonder what their definition of a Public Protector or oversight committee really is. Would they prefer a Public Protector who does everything but protect the interest of the public? Would the ANC prefer oversight committees whose sole purpose is to overlook any ANC wrongdoing? Would Gwede Mantashe, Jackson Mthembu, Fikile Mbalula, Blade Nzimande and others prefer a robust media that reports on any and all shortcomings and misdemeanors of all political parties, except the ANC?
How arrogant must the leadership be if they expect the public to simply swallow without question the fodder they're being fed?

For Blade Nzimande to say Jacob Zuma built Nkandla with his own money is an insult to our intelligence.  Really Blade? Just 4 years ago our president was singing poverty. Are we expected to believe that President Jacob Zuma's salary of R2.7million per annum was so well invested as to reap a 5000% return in 4 short years? Really Blade? Zuma's investors could teach the worlds most successful investor, Warren Buffet, a thing or two! I wonder why they never applied the same investment principles to Aurora mines, Eskom, SABC and a whole string of other failures the state had it's finger in?
Are we supposed to believe Gwede Mantashe when he says that economic growth has declined in the Western Cape, against all credible reports and statistics? I've never been a supporter of the DA but even one as critical of the party as I knows that the Western Cape is the best run province in the country. Even one as critical as I cannot accept Gwede's views on the Western Cape.
Are we supposed to accept Fikile Mbalula's views that the public are not allowed to show dissent at their president by booing him? Really Fikile? History has shown that booing is probably the mildest form of showing dissatisfaction against leadership. We come from a political history of brick-throwing, necklacing and molotov-cocktails. I would think booing is probably the most respectful show of dissatisfaction, considering our past.

While all political parties may be guilty to some degree of denialism and discrediting those who highlight shortcomings within parties, it is precisely because the ANC is currently the ruling party that the spotlight will be placed squarely on them.
If the leadership within the ruling party cannot understand and accept that it is the sign of a healthy democracy for citizens to criticize their leaders, than I am afraid the political school they have graduated from is in worse condition than our current education system.

Department Of Education: Policies Or Fallacies?

My opinion piece published on News24
April 07, 2014

"Our vision is of a South Africa in which all our people have access to lifelong learning, as well as education and training, which will, in turn, contribute towards improving the quality of life and building a peaceful, prosperous and democratic South Africa.
Our mission is to provide leadership with respect to provinces, districts and schools in the establishment of a South African education system for the 21st century."
The Vision and Mission statement of the Department Of Basic Education, South Africa.
By any standards, these are high goals to achieve for a third-world education system wanting to attain first-world success.
The Department Of Basic Education is more well known for it's recent failures than it is for it's many accomplishments. The textbook saga will unfortunately always follow Minister Angie Motshekga irrespective of the sterling work her department has achieved in other spheres of education. Speak of a failure on the part of our education leadership and the topic becomes synonymous with Minister Angie Motshekga. Speak about ASIDI, Dinaledi or NSNP (National School Nutrition Programme) and very few have heard about them or know what they are all about.
The same can be said for Minister Of Higher Education And Training, Blade Nzimande. While many will remember his department for their policy of a 30% matric pass requirement, the commendable work his department has done with SETA's (Sector Education And Training Authority) and VCET (Vocational And Continuing Education And Training) largely goes unnoticed.

With all these great policies in place for learners, beginning at the basic education level and working their way through the system until they emerge post-matric hopefully armed with their glossy and full-of-promise certificates, one has to wonder whether governments objectives have been achieved.
From the very outset, the private schooling system and the public schooling system have set very different values with vastly different playing-fields which never level themselves out, no matter how much we'd like to believe otherwise. The public or government schooling system starts at age 6 in Grade 0 as compulsory, and age 4-5 in Grade R as optional. For all intents and purposes, this is when a learner entering a government school will have his or her first interaction with a teacher. Compare that to your average private schooling learner, who's first interaction with a teacher is usually around the age of 3. That's a three year headstart on learning, albeit at it's most basic level.

Once in the learning stream, the real process of moulding these young minds to become leaders and champions of society really begins. It is in these formative years that the building blocks are set in place for future success. For too long the definition of success held by government was simply that a learner attains a matric certificate. The bar was lowered and standards were drastically dropped in order for government to achieve this goal. Some believed that this presented a win-win situation for the ANC, as it showed an increase in learners passing matric irrespective of the 30% pass debate, while simultaneously 'dumbing down' the youth to create a nation of sheep instead of young lions. Sheep prefer to be led, and simply follow the herd. Lions are independant and fearless, and their roar is backed by their bite. An entirely different conversation for the conspiracy theorist, but an interesting one nonetheless.

The extent of the problem becomes really evident once learners have completed matric and are now ready to embark on their tertiary education. For those with university entrance passes, the choice is quite simple; a university degree or diploma. For those with anything less than a university pass entrance, there are FET (Further Education And Training) colleges, SETA's  and trade schools. Remember that grades 10-12 are already regarded as non-compulsory in the education departments policy, as these fall under the FET banner.
With many universities and colleges complaining about such basics as literacy levels amongst learners exiting the higher education stream, the bottle-neck seams to favour those learners coming from private schools with higher literacy rates and better grades. The problem is further compounded by hard-working and deserving students from disadvantaged backgrounds who qualify for bursaries, who invariably would have attended public schools, and who want to now enter universities or colleges. This places a huge burden on tertiary institutions who want to produce the best and brightest minds within those short years a degree requires. By adding a bridging year to a 4 year course simply to attend to issues of literacy, learners are burdened with an additional year of education which requires funding. Many are already financially stretched to simply cover their current tuition costs.

The recent SABEC (South African Basic Education Conference) held at the end of March is an indication that government realizes the failures in some of their policies, and hopefully plans to charter a new course through our existing education quagmire. Whether these new policies and the shift in attitude will have a positive effect remains to be seen. It takes an average of 12 years, from the time a learner enters the education stream to the time they leave with a matric certificate, to fully assess the competency of any changes implemented now. If these new policies and changes were undertaken with the mindset of a Fortune 500 CEO, the very first step would be to test the system by increasing the matric pass rate drastically in 12 years, while simultaneously implementing stringent quality control measures at the end of each year starting from the next batch of Grade 0's entering the stream.

While the future may look bleak for those learners currently in the Grade 0-12 stream, governments acknowledgment of the problem and addressing it with a serious view to realistic solutions offers a glimmer of hope to tomorrow's leaders.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Here Comes Jacob Boo Boo

My post which appeared on News24, 01 April 2014
News24: Here Comes Jacob Boo Boo

Remember when President Jacob Zuma was booed at the memorial service of Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium in December of 2013?

My initial reaction was that this was highly disrespectful to the occasion, being Madiba’s memorial service, and also highly disrespectful to the legacy which Nelson Mandela was leaving behind. While the world watched in awe as we paid tribute to the life and achievements of one of its finest sons and statesmen, it also witnessed the culmination of sheer frustration being expressed by many at the stadium toward President Jacob Zuma and his ruling party, the ANC.

Debates raged on for weeks regarding the booing, and the ANC came out all guns blazing as they criticized the boo-ers.
While many may have agreed with the act of boo-ing, we also felt it was neither the time nor the place to show dissatisfaction at the president.

Fast-forward barely three months later and President Jacob Zuma gets booed once again as he walks onto the pitch at FNB Stadium for the post-match ceremony after Bafana Bafana played Brazil in an international friendly. This time it was Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula who came out in Zuma’s defence, even calling the boo-ers “hooligans and cowards who’s plans are infused in Satanism at best”.

All this boo-ing of our President and subsequent criticism from the ANC of those doing the boo-ing got me thinking about this act of disgruntlement. How frustrated and disappointed must the people be to get to the point of actively boo-ing their President in public? How negative must public perception be that the nation would vent its anger every chance they got at the country’s leader? If people feel that they have the right to vent their frustrations in this manner, what would have set the precedent for this kind of dissent? If the ANC are so critical of this act, surely it’s political origin could not have come from within its ranks? Why would they demonize and criticize an act if the party had previously condoned it on previous occasions? Had they condoned it on previous occasions?

Then I remembered the infamous Women’s Day rally in Utrecht, KwaZulu-Natal,  in August of 2005 where then Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was publicly boo-ed by none other than Jacob Zuma supporters. This after Jacob Zuma had been relieved of his position as Deputy President to face charges of corruption. I don’t recall the ANC being highly critical of Zuma’s supporters boo-ing Mlambo-Ngcuka, their Deputy President back then. The SABC was even taken to task for not having reported this incident.  The public broadcaster blamed the lack of footage on a freelance cameraman who arrived late. No surprises there.
In May of 2009, ex-President Thabo Mbeki was boo-ed as his arrival was announced at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Once again, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was not spared the wrath of sections of the crowd.

This form of venting dissatisfaction and frustration has been around for hundreds of years, and with the rise of social media networks it simply means that the public has quicker access to and immediate commentary on such acts as and when it happens. Twitter exploded instantaneously with news on each occasion of Jacob Zuma’s boo-ings at FNB Stadium .

So I find it rather disingenuous of the ruling party to tell us that showing dissent and exercising our freedom of speech by boo-ing that which we don’t agree with as satanic, cowardly and disrespectful. Where were these chastising voices when the people being boo-ed were out of favor with the leadership? I don’t recall Cyril Ramaphosa or Fikile Mbalula lambasting those members of the ANC boo-ing  Mbeki or Mlambo-Ngcuka and others? I don’t recall the people doing the boo-ing then, being referred to as ‘hooligans’.

If the ANC accepts that this act of boo-ing is par for the course when other political parties are on the receiving end, then they must accept when it happens to members of it’s own party too. If they condone the boo-ing of Helen Zille and Patricia De Lille, then they should accept the same treatment for President Jacob Zuma. I don’t accept the argument that he should be exempt from being boo-ed simply because he is the president. By that logic he is also the person who presides over his members and allows them to boo members of parliament unchecked. For goodness sake the MP’s themselves boo each other in the house. Just ask Terror Lekota, who by now must think his middle name is ‘Boo’!

I’m neither pro-Zuma nor pro-Mbeki, but I do believe that the ANC needs to stop treating the youth, the public at large, and anybody showing dissatisfaction with their leadership, as kids at a kindergarten. You reap what you sow. You cannot change the rules when the game is going against you.
I suspect that in the run-up to the elections, we are going to have a lot more boo-ing by a lot more disgruntled citizens. It’s become a fragment of our political quilt, much like toyi-toying, and parties need to accept that the people will be heard, one way or another.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Nkandla And It's Message To The Youth

Nkandla in the background, the Presidents neighbors in the foreground

Moeletsi Mbeki in a recent interview spoke about the sense of entitlement within the ANC leadership when he said  “The leaders think that the South African people owe them and can therefore delve into their budgets”. While this sense of entitlement may be true of the ANC and it’s current leadership, what does it really say to our youth, and what message does it portray to tomorrow’s leaders?

It’s only when we step away from the media and start connecting with what’s happening on the ground at a grassroots level that we get to see the smoke from the mirrors, and are able to pigeon-hole electioneering from reality. Political parties are on a massive roadshow to wax lyrical about their achievements and the progress they have made to better the lives of their constituencies. It’s the old “Rabbit From The Hat” magic trick, where they get the public to focus on what they want us to see, while the essence of what we really should be looking at is being hidden. It’s the same promises every four years, but craftily repackaged to make it seem as though every item on their political manifesto is suddenly a new challenge never before undertaken.

It is with this view that I had the opportunity to engage with a job candidate recently to see what the world looked like through the eyes of an unemployed ‘born-free’; a strapping and well-spoken bespectacled 20 year old who for all intents and purposes never got to live under any other leadership in South Africa other than the ANC.

Our conversation covered all the usual check-points (Crime, Poverty, Unemployment, Service Delivery, Healthcare, Elections, Hope and even Nkandla) and his answers for the most part where as I had expected them to be.
While he was disappointed at certain shortcomings and constant media reports on corruption and wasteful expenditure by government, there was a real sense of hope and optimism in the future. I say “There was” because it turns out he was willing to forgive all these shortcomings and place them in a box labelled ‘Teething Problems’ even though we are now 20 years into our new democracy, if only the Nkandla saga never happened.

I asked him to elaborate and this is what he said.
“As a young South African, I had to understand the forces at play within our political arena before subscribing to certain notions and beliefs. If I spent my day watching the news and reading the papers, I would easily be influenced to believe that my country was destined for failure and that nothing positive ever happened within our borders. I would be forced to believe that there has been no progress made in many spheres of our lives, and that my people are no better off today than they were before 1994.
I know this is not the reality because the sky hasn’t fallen and people who left our shores in droves for greener pastures are in fact coming back home, slowly but surely; for this is home. I believed President Zuma when he said he had a good story to tell. Put in context, opposition parties have a duty to only highlight the negative and as we all know, sometimes the ANC makes this quite an easy task for the DA and others. I know full well that the levels of corruption within government are unacceptably high but I’d like to think that these are matters being exposed and attended to by the relevant authorities. I’m willing to forgive all the shortcomings by the very same liberation movement and political party which won us our freedom. All in the name of ‘Teething Problems’.

Then along comes Nkandla.
R250 million for security upgrades and my President say’s he wasn’t aware of what was happening at his private residence? A report published by the Public Protector confirming that there was mismanagement and in some cases downright fraud of public money, and yet the ANC wants to refute this and protect the wrong-doers? Suddenly the corruption that I was willing to forgive seems like a mountain. The endless reports of mismanagement and fraud by municipalities and party members start painting a new picture, one where the sunshine and wheat-fields are replaced by the grim reality of pigs at a trough. So I have to ask myself for how much longer am I expected to be thankful for 1994 and what price do I have to continue paying for my freedom and liberties?”

I prefer not debating religion and politics as a personal choice but at this point I was too invested in his views and opinions to simply end the conversation.
We’ve witnessed a sense of entitlement across a broad spectrum of society and I wondered how this affects the youth. How does the ANC and President Zuma’s handling of Nkandla shape public opinion and perception especially in the demographic that is currently moulding tomorrows leaders? If the message from the First Citizen is that he hadn’t done anything wrong by accepting the spending of R250 million of public money that was destined for other government projects is to be believed, that one can safely assume he expects us the people to simply smile and move on. Clearly nothing to see here.

I asked this question and got this response:
“If ANC leaders think nothing of stealing from state coffers to enrich their own lives at the expense of those who need it most, than those who need it most will steal from those who have. You can’t teach a child not to steal, while spending your day shoplifting. Right now we as the youth are the children of the current leadership. As our political fathers and grandfathers they are telling us not to steal, while justifying their corruption with fancy phrases like “Unaware of the scope” and “Not involved in the process.” I haven’t had a job in 7 months. I haven’t paid rent in 4 months. My family hasn’t had a decent meal in 2 weeks. Maybe my family and I should start stealing to survive, and if we get caught, I will tell the police that my President say’s it’s fine. It’s no big deal. Maybe my story will make the newspaper. Maybe I will be regarded as a common thief. Maybe they will put me in jail… but what happens if everybody in my situation decides to do the same thing all at once? Will they jail hundreds of thousands of people across the country just because they wanted to put food on their tables? We don’t want or care about security upgrades and kraals and chicken-runs and swimming pools. We care about jobs and food.”

The youth have spoken, and I listened.
Julius Malema was bred and educated in the ANC Youth League. As a child of the parent, we as a nation saw first hand what a sense of entitlement can lead to. We observed how difficult and challenging it was for the parent to discipline the child. Today he has chartered a course through the stages of youth to emerge as a political leader himself. He has surrounded himself with politicians and academics guiding his political party through the potholed landscape of South African politics.
There are hundreds of thousands of Julius Malema’s out there who are the children and grandchildren of this great liberation movement, the ANC. They don’t have access to politicians and academics who will guide them. They are watching keenly how their President and their leadership handle Nkandla.
Nkandla is the litmus test to their sense of entitlement.
My hope is that the leadership of our country sit up and listen before it is too late.
My hope is that President Zuma and the ANC address Nkandla before Nkandla becomes the war-cry of Josiah and every other unemployed youth of South Africa.
My hope is that the candle of hope never gets extinguished in the people of this beautiful country.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Medical Marijuana, Or Holy Smoke That Was Dope!

After Inkatha Freedom Party politician, cancer victim and Member of Parliament Mario Oriani-Ambrosini introduced a discussion in the house on legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, South Africans have been abuzz about the possibility of this being passed as law.

Firstly I must confess that I have tried smoking marijuana or 'dagga' as it's commonly called, on one previous occasion, and immediately proceeded to cough so violently as to projectile vomit what I can only describe as a small ostrich clean across the length of my swimming pool. If 9 out of 10 doctors recommend Colgate, I'm always going to be the guy using Close Up. So it stands to reason that if 9 out of 10 of my friends enjoy smoking the occasional 'joint', I'm not surprised that I am THAT guy. The guy who can't handle his 'joint'. Admittedly I'm basing all of this on just one single attempt, but if that one attempt had me discussing religion and quantum physics with Elvis and Bob Marley until the early hours of the morning, I think it's fair to assume that a single 'joint' has the same effect on me as an entire pharmaceutical concoction has on Snoop Dogg. OK, bad example.
But you get my point.

So it was with interest that I followed the debate on whether marijuana should be legalized or not. Since I have no bias on the issue, being unfazed both literally and figuratively by the humble 7 leaf clover, I understood both sides of the argument while honestly only agreeing with one.

The marijuana smokers insist that the plant is not a drug. While it may have mild hallucinogenic properties, these can be equated to your morning caffeine fix or evening shot of whiskey. The addictive properties are no worse than cigarettes bought over the counter at your local cafe. The medicinal properties are too numerous to mention, but include pain alleviation and in certain cases, fighting off cancers and other nasty bodily afflictions. They make a fairly good argument for the legalization of marijuana.

The group opposed to the legalization of marijuana are simply durg-dealers of the worst kind in the pursuit of profits and personal gain.
Wait. That came out wrong.
The group opposed to the legalization of marijuana are simply the big pharmaceutical companies and their supporters who realize that legalizing the plant would cost them billions of dollars in lost revenue.
Yes. Billions of dollars.
Cancer is a huge money-spinner and cash-cow for pharmaceutical companies. I've done sufficient research on a drug companies business model to know what inspires them. If you think it's helping and healing the world, you're probably a recreational Tik smoker with a heavy drinking problem.
Drug companies make money off the manufacture of drugs for the management of the most common ailments and diseases.
Now read that line again slowly, a few times if need be, and allow it to sink in.
'Drug companies make money off the manufacture of drugs.' This we know.
'For the management of the most common ailments and diseases.' The management of... not the eradication of.
It's not a really smart business model to be manufacturing drugs that totally cure certain ailments. That kills off recurring business, and as we all know, it's recurring business that rakes in the profits.
You don't believe me?
Google "Why Drug Companies Don't Find Cures" and you will come up with about 350 million links.
Pick one. Any one. Then read and ask yourself why it all sounds so familiar.
The one I liked best was Why Medicine Won't Allow Cancer To Be Cured

Getting back to the legalization of marijuana.
Since drug companies can't regulate the sale of the plant and have no control over it's merchandise value and since there are no shareholders or boards of executives involved when growing this plant in your backyard, they simply fund lobby groups who in turn convince governments and law makers that the growing, harvesting, selling or use of the plant should be outlawed.
In essence, if they can't make money off the game, they might as well ban it.

It seems that the tide is turning, albeit slowly. People, ordinary citizens, are finally starting to protest in loud enough voices that governments and lawmakers are forced to sit up and take notice. It's happening all across the United States, it's happening across large parts of Europe, and it's happening right here on our very own doorsteps.
Expect the fightback from big pharmaceuticals to get more pronounced. Expect them to demonize dagga smokers and make you believe that they are all junkies. Expect to be told that crime rates will soar and road accidents will sky-rocket if marijuana is legalized.
When all is said and done, simply ask them why the number one cause of cancer is still being marketed and sold across the counter, across the world; why the number one cause of road fatalities throughout the world is still being marketed and sold at liquor stores and supermarkets and restaurants all across the planet; why the combined deaths from alcohol abuse and smoking-related cancer is so large on a pie-graph that the fatalities from marijuana use don't even feature as a pixel on the page. (I know because I actually tried doing such a pie-graph!)

We will never be able to remove money from the equation when it comes to public health or government for that matter. What we as citizens must do, and have every right to do, is make our voices heard loud enough and consistently enough that we effect the positive changes we deserve.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fight The Good Fight

You know how i can tell that this post was meant to be written?
Halfway through writing it, my iPad just restarted and I lost everything I had written up to that point! That pretty much sums up 2014, and we're only 2 months into the year. My battle-weary bones are screaming for a time-out. I've heard of a lady who does spiritual healing and aligns your chakras. Maybe I'll have that done. I'm not sure what aligning the chakras are all about, but it sounds like something important. Maybe after I've had my chakras aligned I'll stop pulling to the left or suddenly start wobbling at high speed. Admittedly aligning the chakras does sound like something only a professional should be doing. Someone like Tiger Wheel & Tyre.

So I made a bucket list at the end of 2013, and this past week I had some time to go through the list and amend it. By amend it I mean delete 95% of everything I initially put down and focus on just 2 items.
# My health (well that's kind of in a spiral that has a life form all of its own. Even my doctor has taken up smoking with all the stress my health has given him, and Discovery is considering naming a new health policy after me.)
# The New Business Venture. This is something exciting that I've always wanted to do but always second-guessed myself on. I should have done it 2 years back but alas fate led me down another path. The opportunity has presented itself again, and everybody knows opportunity never knocks twice... So here goes nothing :) 
Watch this space!

In other news, Villa Kaloo is on the market and as much as I love my home, I think it's time for change. We're considering a move to the coast. The pursuit of quality of life I guess.

Clearly there are big changes ahead. 

Moving right along. 

It's election time again, which means promises of a better life for all and a prosperous future will be sprinkled about like rice at a Chinese wedding. I'm currently working on an election post as well and I think you'll be surprised at who could potentially get my vote.

Ok I'm seriously going to have to end this post right here because Piranha 3DD is currently on the telly and it's just so shockingly bad, it's actually quite riveting!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Life Begins At 40

I feel so much wiser suddenly. More mature even. More grown-up almost.
I feel like my grandfather (who quite possibly became a grandfather by the age of 40!)

It's like I went to bed on the 22nd of January, the night before my birthday, and woke up on the day of my birthday with a Wisdom Elixir. That and a bigger belly.
Or maybe, just maybe, somewhere in the run-up to this milestone birthday, I realized that letting go is the greatest reward you can give yourself.

Letting go of everything and everybody that holds you back.
Letting go of every thought and memory that casts a dull cloud over a sunny disposition.
Letting go of people's perceptions of you, and realizing that it's more important to think of yourself highly than for others to do so.

I used to sign my emails off a few years ago with the tagline "Fight The Good Fight."
In all honesty I never really took the time to fully understand what that meant. I do now. We spend our lives putting out petty fires that never really threaten the well-being or livelihood of the forest. We get so engrossed in righting every wrong that we lose focus of simply enjoying the moment for what it is.

Sometimes letting go means having to walk away from people or situations that at one point meant all the world to you.
Sometimes it's your closest and dearest friends.
Sometimes it's your very livelihood and work environment.
Sometimes, yes sometimes, it's family.
There really is only so much you can do and give of yourself before you need to let go and move on. Find another pasture, another wolf-pack, another crew.

Last year I found my crew. I found the group of crazy individuals who make me feel whole. People I can let my hair (what little hair I have left) down in front of, laugh until my belly aches with, and even wear my silk gown in front of on a night out at a fancy restaurant :)

In them I have found my garden of youth, and as with any garden, I guess it will constantly need pruning and have the weeds removed.... but I feel as though it's a garden I belong in.
The night of my birthday was special for many reasons.
Having such dear friends stand up and tell me why I mattered to them, why I wasn't insignificant, and why the friendship lives and breathes was the kind of gift you could never put a price or value on.
For this and for having them in my circle of friends, I am truly honored and grateful.

People always start the year off saying "This is the year for change."
That's great, just as change is great. Except when you're 6 months into the year and haven't changed a thing. Step 1 for me was to stop hoarding. Stop hoarding people in my life like they were old bicycle parts which were never going to be of any help or value. Let go of the clutter. Focus on what matters and forget about what doesn't. If the fire is not going to burn down the forest, stop trying to put it out. Let it burn itself out.

And find your wolf-pack :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Forecast: Doom & Gloom

That's what she said.

Hello 2014 you old bastard you.

So I challenged myself to a social media/internet hiatus for 30 days and I won!
Well OK maybe not exactly 30 days but who's counting? Someone dared me to it. At first I thought I would succumb after 3 hours. Break out in hives. Faint from a bout of Twitchy Thumb Syndrome. Have my blood pressure plunge worse than the Rand even. So I gave it some thought and decided that the best and most challenging and testing of times to be completely offline in every sense of the word, would be whilst on holiday. Sort of force myself to look at the missus and kids in the eye while having dinner at an actual table with real crockery. Not upload every meal pic or sunset onto Instagram. Not tweet every time something ridiculously funny happened in my day, and ridiculously funny things seem to happen around me quite often, as you know. Not comment on friends uploading pics of their cat's playing Mozarts 5th Symphony on Facebook.

So there I was at the end of Day 1 wondering what was happening in the world and looking up at the stars trying to figure out if planet earth was still in orbit. I figured the galaxy hadn't yet noticed my absence and simply continued on it's merry milky way totally oblivious of the huge void I had left in socialmediasphere. Yes that's a word. Google it. Ok don't. I haven't created it's Wikipedia page yet. I've only been online for 15 minutes!
Where was I?
Aah yes.
Black hole.
Doom & Gloom.
*tsk tsk*

Well you will be glad to know that I made it through an entire holiday, including Christmas eve, New Years eve, a 24 hour stomach bug that hit Durban yet miraculously missed me, some crazy Indian who wiped his family out with a religious stick, and even our President Jacob Zuma declaring yet ANOTHER war on corruption, without me having tweeted or facebooked any of it!

I learned some valuable lessons during this experience.
I shall share them with you in no particular order.
# Quality time spent with your family and loved ones are precious moments which must be seized upon at every opportunity.
# Today's breaking news will be tomorrow's litter-box lining.
# Take some time out to chat to your maker, whatever you may call him. It does your soul more good than you could possibly imagine.
# Social Media is great, but face-to-face is even better.
# Some people don't trust non-drinkers. Some people don't trust vegetarians. I don't trust people who say "I miss you."

If the signs are anything to go by, and there have been many, 2014 is going to be a year filled with change. Hopefully some notes too.
Those pesky coins can get annoying sometimes.