Tuesday, 20 September 2016

In the name of God I hate you!

This is what I imagine I would hear if I were to attend the Faithfulword Baptist Church service.  This church on the south-east corner of Southern Avenue and 48th Street, Tempe Arizona is led by one pastor Steven Anderson.  The church is described as old-fashioned and one is cautioned not to expect anything modern or liberal – should you consider visiting, I suppose.

Until the good pastor was refused entry into this here mzansi, I had not heard of him and in fairness, my life was the better in that ignorance.

The beef, I gather from Twitter and electronic version of some newspapers, is the pastors hatred for homosexuals or as he prefers to call them, sodomites.  He is known to have called them vile and worse.  He is unrepentantly steadfast in his view of the sodomites so-called as evil.  In his sermon (I only managed 2 minutes of a YouTube version) he makes no apology for offending the evil that is LGBT.  Pastor Anderson takes his cue from the good book and no one is going to stop him from winning souls.  His bigotry, hatred and othering is God sanctioned.  The bible is, according to the good pastor ,very clear on sodomy.  The man does know his King James Bible; it is the only version of the good book that the Faithful Word Baptist Church goes by.  Not the watered down versions of the good book – this church only goes by the real deal and the real deal good book is on some “woe unto you ye sodomites”;  and pastor and congregation say amen.

As we know, the good pastor was prevented from entering this here mzansi.  As much as this made me happy, it seems to have offended others.  Like one Mike Collins who made his views articulately known in the letters section of the Citizen.  Yes that newspaper whose dodgy history is eclipsed goes unmentioned lately, what with BBBEE and that other newspaper that is a cousin of that TV news channel.  Mr Collins laments the fact that our freedom of speech is poorer thanks to the department of home affairs refusing the good pastor entry into the country.  In his defense of the good pastor Mr Collins refers to good ol’ Voltaire and his “I don’t agree with you but will defend your right to say it to the death” or words to that meaning.  He, Mr Collins not Voltaire, would rather we let the good pastor into our sodom so that he can come win some souls.  Like Voltaire we should defend the good pastor’s right to spew his bigoted bile-like views to the death more so that we disagree with those views.  So far so reasonable, right?  Wrong.  Mr Collins also says that the sodomites would in any event not be attending the good pastor’s sermons, except to be confrontational.  So what’s the fuss, right?  Wrong.  Then Mr Collins craftily uses the Dalai Lama’s experience to underpin the thrust of his letter – that the whole pastor’s affair is another black-eye for freedom of expression.

Bigotry can sound so reasonable sometimes.  Like how kids are placed in classes according to their race – because kids prefer to be with their own or those that are culturally the same, right?  Wrong.  Women do not progress in the work place because just when they get ready for a senior position they decide to get married and raise children, right?  Wrong.  Mr Collins chooses not to deal with the other aspects of our constitutional democracy such as the laws that proscribe hate speech, period.  The proscription of hate speech is not premised on its tendency to incite violence against the other.  Inciting violence is a crime all on its own.  So, when the good pastor makes his intention clear and public that he is mzansi-bound with the intention to win souls and to castigate sodomites in all of their evilness and vile ways;  he foretells his intention to commit a crime.  A crime for which good pastor unrepentantly and unapologetically stands by – in the name of God and the guidance of the bible, of course.  

Our social compact as citizens is that we shall not commit crime and where we do, we may be deprived of some or all of our rights – like freedom of movement, freedom of expression, etc.  Of course this may be a thin edge of a repressive wedge (a point Mr Collins does not make).  Enough has been written and said on the application of our constitutional principles as a balancing act.  Without this balancing Mr Collins and the good pastor will wantonly incite and hate and other and generally bigot their merry way around mzansi.  Of course without the balancing on the other end dictators and fascist will deny all forms of expression.  A concern Mr Collins does not express because fundamentally, he does not think the good pastor a bigot and a fascist – he thinks the good pastor a Dalai Lama of sorts..

Both Mr Collins and the good pastor are entitled to their views just as the department of home affairs has a duty to honour and protect the constitution in its decisions and rulings.  In this particular instance I am with the honourable  minister bae.  Contrary to the assertion of Mr Collins that the decision amounts to an assault on the freedom of expression; the ruling refuses the use of the right to freedom of expression as cover for bigotry, hate speech and othering.  For that, this freedom is strengthened and protected – as it should be.  Especially from the good pastor and his flock.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

This is Our Stuff

This is what I hear every time talk of change, transformation or even a mention of Black, comes up. Yes, I hear this from white people, I hear this from whiteness that invariable is also in and by itself, rightness.  Of course this statement comes in a variety of forms and guises. From the ostensibly innocent “nooo, you can’t be serious, that can't be true” to the toe-curlingly infuriating “not everything is about race”.  On occasion as I smile and battle to keep my cool while seething inside – “I’m not an idiot and I am not talking about everything! I am talking about this particular thing! As you correctly point out the painfully obvious – “some things are about race”; your own *expletive* words.

I can never quite get my head around a life where one never has to account for or explain anything. A life where anything one says or does is taken to be valid, right and for a good cause or some good reason. That refrain through Chris Rock’s stand-up show: “it’s all right because it’s all white” or words to that effect – is more profound than I initially appreciated in between fits of laughter.  What gets me even more, all of the *expletive* time is how whiteness never gets this, refuses to get it, not even engage it for just one *expletive* second.  Like a fool I try again: “Sam, just look at how your life is set up” he interrupts, “it’s no different to yours, we both work hard and want only the best for our families” my turn to interrupt “hear me out please, I am trying to make a point of how our lives are set up – how I went to nanogang primary and you to Rondebosch prep; how from our respective first days at school our lives would follow paths set by that first day of school.”
Yes, today was not born on the death of yesterday. To borrow from Alice Walker’s phrasing – Today is not a place Yesterday comes to die, it is the link in the continuum that is yesterday that will become tomorrow.

Some of the brightest people I know are white, only some. It is this lot that get me to lose my generally good sense completely.  How the *expletive* can they not get it? In between responding to some mommy group WhatsApp and sterilizing the baby bottles and stuff says “babe what makes you think they don’t get it, maybe they won’t just get it?” In fact, she continues, I don’t interrupt, “they refuse to get it”.  The horror that is whiteness is of such a scale not even white people want to look at it, let alone engage with it. They would rather take a logic defying position than just see and hear things for what they are, not what they would prefer them to be. Yes, the word is prefer – innocuous as it may seem, it is the basis on which society as we know it is constructed. Laws were passed and enforced precisely on white preferences.  Of course preference is called all manner of other things like “manners, process, requirements, law, order, fairness, what is right; the list is as endless as white preference knows boundaries, not.  “It is rude to speak a language other people in the room do not understand” – seemingly sensible and polite, right?

Real talk: the power of whiteness is largely enabled by the submission of blackness. This was made plain and simple by children who said – my hair, my language, my voice.  This during a week of chaos and turmoil wherever else one looked around the country.  While faction battles raged on; while those elected to serve our communities concerned themselves with dress codes and decorum in *expletive* council chambers – our children were saying “I come as I am in all my otherness, whether you like it, approve of it or not.”  These children’s tomorrow will be better than our yesterday;  only if our today as their parents do not betray it, by our obsessive investment in the very whiteness we claim to resent.

It is because whiteness believes (and lives that belief) that all that is good about everything, is white and right,  that we owe it gratitude for letting us into that splendour.  The splendour Of good schools and clean, leafy suburbs.  How dare we make any demands when such generosity is shown to us, to our children.  All we need do is be grateful and in that gratitude just fit the *expletive* in.  It’s all about decorum and deportment, it is not difficult, besides you can always be you again when you get home – come on, be a team player, be reasonable, these things take time and sacrifice.

Whiteness will continue on the path it knows, understands and love; a path that assures and secures it's place at the top largely because we believe this to be right.  It is only when we, each in our respective spaces politely and emphatically say “fuck you Sam, this is not your shit, it is our shit and you don’t get to keep it to yourself for another 400 fucking years – it ends here, today.”  This is not your stuff.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Homeless and Destitute, Not a Spectacle

CEOs and other business leaders reportedly raised R31million to help the homeless. This they did by sleeping out, on the cordoned off Nelson Mandela bridge, exposed to the elements – not. When this fundraising effort first caught my attention, I without much thought declared it an insult to the homeless and a farce. I saw some justification for the effort by way of a quote attributed to one of the organisers; something along the lines of this being an opportunity for the top of the pile to experience life of the bottom of the pile. The sleep-out hardly achieves this but that is hardly the point or is it?
Those who support the sleep-out argue that the homeless need all the help they can get. A caller on Radio2000 impatiently asked, shouting actually, “if these guys did not do this, who was going to do it?” I presume the caller was referring to the fundraising and not the sleep-out but I can’t be sure. Here is the thing, the fortunate and well to do should give and should help, where possible, the less fortunate, no question. Any effort to help make this here country better for more than the CEOs should be applauded. Generosity however, does not buy anyone the privilege to denigrate those that stand to benefit – or not – from such generosity.
Marvin rings my bell from time to time and with as much dignity as he can muster, he asks for R10 so that he can be allowed into the shelter for the night. He is homeless. On nights that he can’t raise the entrance fee to the shelter or maybe choose to buy food with the money or a drink; he sleeps on the street, literally. He does so without a windbreaker, beanie, wifi, fire or security. This is Marvin’s reality, being homeless. The CEOs and those that organised Wi-Fi, fire and catering are not homeless. Reasons for being homeless are varied mainly, the homeless are destitute. These are the people who do not know where their next meal will come from. The sleep-out was fully catered.
I write this from the comfort of my living room. What right then do I have to speak on behalf of the homeless? None at all. I do however have the privilege to speak my mind when the privileged buy their way out of common decency. This is not an attempt to spend the night and time with the homeless, to understand their circumstances or plight. It is almost like that dwarf-throwing thing in the US and Canada. Those who supported it argued that the dwarfs got paid good money for it. Those against it argued “these are human beings”. Would people react differently to this sleep-out effort, I wonder if CEOs did it merely for the experience and raised no money for any cause? Without the R31million, would this be just a “let’s see how the other side live?” No it wouldn’t because what happened on the Nelson Mandela bridge resembles more an open air concert than an experience on the streets, with nothing to your name. I’m told not to forget the R31million. Yes, the R31million is there and much more and it should be given abundantly to help the less fortunate.
The CEOs are some of the smartest people I know. Surely 5 minutes of thought about this would have dissuaded participation? No, instead the sleep-out happened for the second time and seems set to continue and probably get bigger. No surprise there, the Americans voted for George W twice. Money can and does buy pretty much anything. The Sunday newspapers will have the pictures of the well-meaning CEOs out in the cold, for a good cause. They would not have been cold, hungry or unsafe – the stuff the homeless face every day and night. The same CEO’s could have agreed to raise the money over a conference call, on a golf course, through a gala dinner or even at Polo. They chose to make their giving more meaningful I guess. “Not only will I raise lots of money for you, I will share your daily experience, for one night. Wait, ok not really your experience but imagine what R31million can get you – whole new shelter or may be extend two others.” Privilege is truly a nice thing. Like the goose down K-Way jacket, it insulates you from the ravages of poverty. Like that liqueur it numbs you and allows you not to see or hear the call: “I am human too”. Privilege should not however protect you from the obligation to be considerate.  There is no worse form of violence a human being can be subjected to than poverty; I would rather you did not make a spectacle of it.  Put differently, just because another is caught in the pouring rain, it doesn’t make it right for you to piss on him on some “he’s wet anyway and besides, I am giving him a set of fresh clothes anyways”. You are privileged, you have 2 and a half houses and good shoes. Just drive in your lane.  

Monday, 4 July 2016

Love the Fascist

Some people just won’t leave you alone with your BS. You open your mouth, say something controversial and now you have to back it up! Thembelihle is one such person. Don’t get me wrong, I love the warm beautiful, relentlessly truthful soul she is. She fixes heads and hearts too so all things being equal, I may just need her for either or both of those so I can’t be too blasé about anything she says or better still, demands.
Love is fascist, I say. She looks at me with a mixture of incredulity and disappointment. Without a word she says, “love’s not like that my friend” or something close to that. Resounding disapproval and a challenge to back up my BS. So, instead of being on my bike to nowhere, I’m here appeasing Thembi.
But seriously, love is fascist. It has these supposedly non-negotiable premises that you should just sign up to honour and obey, for better and worse. I am not talking about relationships, no, I am talking about the concept of love. Yep, that very thing that no two people can agree it is – yes that one. That thing that Isaac Hayes, Teddy Pendegras, Barry White all bellow silky sweet nothings about. Except that it is fascist, that part they leave to me. Love demands nothing less than total submission or else… It is not like one lover man or woman can decide on their own meaning and definition of love. There’s apparently a universal meaning and definition and we all should get with it – so to speak.
I’m not easily, readily taught but I’ve learned a few things along the way. I have learned that we are disappointed by our expectations and fooled by our beliefs – not people or events. What’s that got to do with love, you may ask. Probably nothing but there’s no context that can contest with love when it comes to being fooled and being disappointed or feeling that you are. It is the stuff loving is made of no wonder the biggest love songs are so sad. Some would even suggest that love is the way it is since the beginning of loving itself so we should all get over ourselves and get with it – in a manner of speaking.
You see, that’s the BS right there! For starters, when exactly was this beginning of loving? Was it before or after that period when women were clobbered over the head and dragged to a nearby cave? Before or after Christ? So much has been written on this love thing that one’s head spins at the mere thought of the stuff. The one thing sensible, in my view of course, is MaBaeps’ favourite Shakespeare’s sonnet: … for love is not love that alters when it alteration finds. Or something close to that.
Undoubtedly, feelings are real. Feeling love and in love is equally really or thereabouts. I’m tempted to ask “what is real” but neither you nor I would want to unzip those pair of pants, would we now. The thing is this, there is a collection of feelings that commonly numbs your mind and pulverises your being into thoughtless submission. It does so about people, events and all manner of things. Tom Robbins writes powerfully and more coherently about this state and I’m not worthy to even attempt paraphrasing. The book is called Still life with woodpecker. More about that book and Tom some other time. For now, love is fascist. No sooner than you are declared or you declare to love or to be in love, you are a goner. It’s tickets. It’s no longer about anything other than you are in love. Try contesting that – it’s dawn and firing squad for you.
“How can you say you love him/her when you…?” You love him/her so… Take your children, if you have any; it is incomprehensible to some that it is precisely when you dislike your children the most that you need to love them. It is the thing that chains you to the little shits even when they push you away and act like absolute tossers.  It demands nothing less than total submission. Thought is pretty blunt an instrument when it comes to love and yes, it yields to no reason. It is reason in and by itself. It is the one thing that says “because I say so” and actually means it completely.
On what basis then do you or anyone else think that it is something to be tamed and domesticated? Circumscribed by rules and controlled? Enticed with little rewards threatened with punishment? Think of fascism. You step out of line, tries to reason or differ; you are summarily taken out at dawn, lined up and shot. Finish. You dance to the tune of the fascist -  you are spared or even rewarded. Love doesn’t even give a toss that you are in love. It does what it will do regardless. No neat little lines of reason and rationale, no balance – hence “falling”. Head over heels at that – the worst kind of fall. The down a flight of stairs kind.
So what is to be done – except steering clear of the fascist that is love? Perhaps we could take a lesson from the wild. Okay, that is too risky. How about the nature reserves or game parks? Take the lions for an example. They get together in a pack probably feeling all manner of emotions for each other. They don’t make a big deal of it. They don’t get all oooh and aaah about nothing. They get together to hunt, to eat, to survive.
How about instead of signing up with the fascist, we just get together to hunt, eat, raise the offsprings and survive? Because humans are different, better even than animals. Looking at the world and what it has come to, I very much doubt that.
I have no doubt though that love is fascist. It simply won’t let you or anyone just be. It is the worst kind of fascist too. The kind that somehow gets you to accept it as the mere order of things and that somehow it is a good thing. The kind that claims to be patient, kind and all manner of things – except it won’t let you just be who you want to be; not when you have signed up with it.
The heart, the symbol of love, the blood pump – just you cross love, blood will flow. Litres of the stuff have been spilled, in the name of love, the fascist.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Tomorrow, Us and Them

Today was not born at daybreak. It has been long in the making and even longer in the coming. Time, the mother of all things, is also the light that shines on yesterday’s lies, baking them into today’s truth. It is said that time heals all wounds – I say it covers all wounds, fades all memories. Sometimes, it makes fact of legend.
The people of Thokoza, Katlehong, Vosloorus didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that there will be war between their respective communities and people who lived in the hostels in those townships. These communities had until the fateful 80s lived side by side with the migrant labourers who lived in the hostels, albeit with a measure of mutual contempt. Reportedly all this was beef between Inkatha and SDUs (self-defence units).  This was a long time coming. We could take a trip back to the days of Mfeqane and the nation building efforts of king Shaka and Moshoeshoe. But then you would lose interest. The short version is that there are different nations, delineated primarily by language, customs and cultural practices. The common ingredient to the nationhood seems to be the enduring contempt of the other, whoever they may be, as long as they are not of us. Whatever that means. Sol Plaatjie writes beautifully of the bloodletting in Mhudi – worth a read.
Batswana, apparently unmatched in their cowardice (according to amaZulu), would be heard shouting “ko matebeleng”, to the Ndebeles, whenever there is a twister blowing through the township. Mind you, Matebele is shorthand for all those that are of Nguni descent.  Similarly, amaZulu would have some choice words for the Basotho and so on and so forth.  Recently, the South Africans of a darker hue refer to similarly hued Africans as makwerekwere. We all know how that all progressed; from looting businesses to torching a man alive to gruesome public stabbing of another. Then of course an elderly gentleman refers to me, by extension to be fair, as a kaffir without batting an eyelid. He too would be called something unpleasant by another group and so it goes – a series of yesterdays building up to today. Here we are, unconsciously if not seemingly comfortably standing on a ledge – taunting an avalanche.
The thing about name-calling is the death that seems to follow.  The death that is so long in the coming that the yesterday on which it rode to get here is blissfully forgotten. It is all taken to have been a sudden change of events, an inexplicable turn of relations where neighbour took arms against neighbour. A sudden madness that gripped ordinary folk who otherwise would not harm a fly? As sudden as the bloodletting that took place between the Thutsi and Hutu people perhaps?
This is an age-old science, it seems. A science as old as humanity maybe? It seems human beings simply can’t help themselves. We make less of the other and that way when the killing begins, it is not killing as it is extermination of something less than human. It is the enemy, the women, the homosexuals, the infidels, the albino, the blacks and so on and so forth. Even as we kill and denigrate and make less and all those things; sometimes in the name of a higher goal or out come – we covet. Somehow we believe that by killing off the other, we stand to attain some better position. The problem is, we can’t kill off the other. The children, even generations later, return to avenge their own. The long coming yesterday becomes a blood-drenched today – building up to a similarly blood-drenched tomorrow.
Perhaps it gets better or even stops, when we realise that as we US, we OTHER. Come to think of it, aren’t nations the cause of all wars like living is the cause of all dying?
Letting me be, offensive as my being may be to you, is the ticket to you being, whatever that may be. Let’s try a different tomorrow, we’re too late for today.