Yesterday I had the pleasure of going to the Theatre in Monte Casino to watch the Phantom of The Opera.
But I experienced one of those really awkward moments when you’re embarrassed to be a certain colour in the smartie box.
It is general theatre etiquette that viewers come to the show with ample time to spare so that everyone can be properly seated before the show begins.
The show began at precisely eight pm. At 20:10 I heard the woman behind me say “oh God, you have to be kidding me”. It was at that point I began my silent prayer to the heavens.
I heard rustling and complaining as people shifted their feet to let the late-comers come through. I was holding my breath- daring not to turn to see what colour the late-comers were.
The next word I heard was “Aplogies” <<<—-insert BEE accent. I died a little inside. And as i turned my head to the left I caught a glimpse of a curly fro.
I put my head in my hands and I sighed deeply.
But in retrospect; I’m experiencing an awkward moment now about my awkward moment then. Maybe it wasn’t their fault that they were late. Maybe the baby got sick or the tyre had a flat? Or Maybe they paid R250 and were not going to waste that money by not showing up at all to see the performance! Why was I feeling the way I was? And Why do I feel the way I do at times like that?
Who am I trying to impress? Why couldn’t I just feel annoyed that there were late to come to the theatre and not have been overly aware of their colour?
have you had a similar experience? Or am I alone across that line?
Guest post by Naledi Hlefane
My prodigal sister has finally returned home after a five-year departure. Perhaps “prodigal” is a strong word. Some petty quarrel, surrounding the birth of her little girl, between her and family elders led to our unfortunate separation.
She brought along her five-year-old daughter whom we’d not seen since birth.
My siblings were elated, mostly by the roles of aunts and uncles they were to formally assume. I was equally enthused but my affection for children is short-lived.
For one, I am pathetic with toddlers and the closest I ever get to baby talk is: “helloow you cutey cutey. What’s your name? Huh? What’s your name?” I then smile and blink a few times in a desperate attempt to make the baby laugh. With those aged three to six I despise the nose-picking, the nagging, perpetual wailing and the one million questions.
I was perplexed when my niece took a great liking to me, insisting on sharing a bed with me instead of her mom and imitating some of my habits. What a sweet little thing she is, I mused. But with all living things on earth, true colours are revealed, eventually. So was the case with my niece.
As it turned out, she has quite a loose tongue. She takes any tone with anyone- child or adult. She doesn’t take disciplinary action too good either, even from her mom. And she would cry till the second coming if she could.
By the third week of her stay I had decided: I’m not having children. EVER! When her mother asked me to babysit her daughter “for just a week”, because of an urgent course she needed to attend, I nearly threw myself out of the window. I would do one of two things during that week: commit suicide or homicide. I obliged nonetheless.
On the first day, an extremely hot Sunday, my niece was tiresome, constantly asking for food. The next two days were fine, except for the 21 questions. She was either terrified or bored for she kept asking how much longer it would be “till mom returned?”
I took her to the mall the next day, to change the routine a bit. Our day was bliss. We were the cynosure of the day, mother and daughter, or so many thought. It shocked me at first but the idea of playing mom for the day gradually grew on me. I lost count of the compliments she got for her “cute” ensemble. I gave a nod for each one taking credit as the stylist.
The following day at the mall was no different, in the spotlight as usual. She was enjoying her pizza when her mom called to announce that she was on her way home. My niece was ecstatic.
I was practically non-existent with her mom back. I couldn’t help feeling disappointed. Was I not the one who had combed her hair gently, the one who cooked noodles at her request? Did I not warn her against using the Lord’s name in vain, teaching her to use “Oh my gosh” as opposed to “Oh my God”?
I mean I had done a practically good job in the few days of being her guardian. I was pleased with my patience and astonished by my nurturing demeanor. There were countless times when she infuriated me so much I should’ve had the upper hand, but I hadn’t. Strangely, I had contemplated having a family of my own in the future. To be given a cold shoulder after this was disheartening.
But as I sat in despair her old habit of wailing kicked back in and at that moment my own child-intolerant ways returned. I was again reminded of why I don’t want to bear children.
Okay, so I have actually speculated that Malema might have a list of different groups to annoy, equal opportunity offender that he appears to be. And I have wondered if he maybe ticks each one off as he goes along – Women? Check. Boere? Check. …Indians? Che- wait, hold on…
When I first read it, my reaction was to lay my head on my desk and ask myself if I had the energy to start foaming at the mouth about this. I mean, let’s face it; it seems the only time the Youth League president ever takes his foot out of his mouth is to put the other one in. It all seemed pretty clear-cut to me – Malema referred to Indian people as “makula”, Makula equals “C%^&*#s”, therefore, Malema done did it again. Same script, different cast.
Or is it?
I’m from Durban, see. And Durban, as you may know, is home to a substantial section of the South African Indian population. It is also part of the so-called “Kingdom of the Zulu”, although I have long suspected that it is the Kingdom of the Real Estate Agents, more like. But I digress.
I myself happen to be Zulu. (Do not judge. Do not offer 11 cows. Do not ask me why Zulu men are so angry all the time.)
I’ve lived in KwaZulu-Natal my whole life and, being of that generation that grew up in urban Durban post-1994, I have quite a highly developed sensitivity to the things you do and do not say to Indian people. Or Coloured people. Or even, when you spot the rare ones at the really popular shopping malls, White people.
One thing I have learnt in KZN is that you do not, not, not call Indian people “makula”.
Which is why, after a bit of Twitter-browsing and a bit of a think, I realized what an ethnocentric stance that is. As I said, I’m from KZN. Even some of the (non-Comrade) older people here, who grew up during apartheid when calling each other things like that was normal, sometimes look guilty and apologize if it slips out. Even when there are no Indian people present to hear them.
You may have noticed I said “some” and “sometimes”. That’s because some of the really old people here honestly believe that “ikula” is a proper, inoffensive term for “Indian”.
Like my paternal grandmother, for instance. She grew up in the rural areas, turns 100 next year, and has never been to school, ever. The only South African history she knows is the history she survived, and that history is not the same stuff our generation reads about from the books. I visited her recently and during our somewhat surreal conversation, she mentioned the word “amakula” quite unself-consciously as a matter of course through-out.
The first time she said, I went quiet with embarrassment. I was the only one. But as we groped our tortured, stilted way towards something vaguely resembling a coherent conversation, on a topic that remained the same for all of seven minutes, I realized that for her it had no derogatory or political connotations whatsoever.
For her it was just a word, like “Umlungu” for a white person, or “UmXhosa” for a Xhosa person. So I would have actually had to sit there loudly reciting the history of South Africa as I have been taught it, and explaining about the suspected origins of the word “makula”, and about why it is widely considered derogatory.
All this to a 99-year-old who has been using it for years without venom.
A question occurred to me, and not for the first time – does what we say matter more than what is in our hearts when we say it?
It’s a hard one to answer, especially since there is no real way of proving what is in your heart to others. Except perhaps via the chest with a sharp knife. But even then I have doubts that you would find anything to hold up and say “this is my humanness, I didn’t mean to hurt you, see?” Okay, even if you could, you probably wouldn’t say it so much as gurgle liquidly with your last weak gasp.
One morning this week, as I listened to the radio while brushing my teeth, the presenter was speaking to a representative from some legal department about whether or not certain words are derogatory. The discussion was in Zulu, and what the man basically said was that it was a challenge for the legal system to actually figure out whether the general public use words such as these with the full understanding that they may upset others.
Here’s the thing – a lot of these words only become debated when someone says them on a public platform and somebody else takes offence. It’s untidy. Everybody in this country goes around with their own ideas of what is and is not offensive. For years in High school, I never quite knew whether the word “bruin ou” was an offensive term or not. I asked my Coloured peers what it meant. They said “brown person”. I saw nothing offensive about that. Years later, I gathered that for some reason, it is. At least, if I say it.
The only reason I even got a chance to learn that was because I lived with Coloured people, and after a while you start to notice those awkward silences and chilly looks.
What interests me, in this Malema instance, is that the five people who have filed a case against him did so in KZN. In KZN, perhaps because Zulu people and Indian people live in closer proximity than elsewhere in the country, there is a largely unspoken understanding, never officially discussed, that “indiya” is a more socially acceptable term than “ikula”. Mind you, not everyone agrees on this even here – but most of the younger, urban Black Zulus accept this. Looking at some of the Twitter and article comments from people who speak SePedi and SeSotho, I really did start to wonder if there really is no other word for “Indian” in their languages. I speak neither so I really can’t say.
But look at it this way, at least incidents like this force us to put into words the rules of the game without assuming that “everybody knows”.
As for whether Malema really said that with poison in his heart, well, only he knows for sure.
Guest Post by Hlengiwe Mahlaba
Although journalism is widely considered as a pathway to gaining information for the public, various criticisms have at times been leveled against journalists. One is the role of “public journalism” – the notion that journalists not only report the facts, but also help the public in finding possible solutions.
The other is the manner in which journalists have often come under fire conducting themselves by doing anything to get the “scoop”. However, the public seldom stops to think how they benefit from this information.
With all the running around tracking sources and gathering information that journalists do, is there still room for them to get personally involved in driving social change? Or does this place them in a compromising position, as they are “supposed” to stay objective when dealing with information?
Is reporting not a big enough job, coming as it does with the responsibilities of informing the public of matters in their interest and shaping opinion?
How hard is it separate your professionalism from your personal opinion? One can’t be objective at all times, yet it is expected of journalists to do so.
One may argue that journalists should get involved in the process for change, as they are also part of a community, living in a country. But a professional journalist should stay objective at all times, and getting involved in political matters may be seen as subjective.
Presenting the facts to the public is as good as the first step to change. Giving the public information that benefits them and making them aware of situations should be like pushing them into the direction for them to do something about it, for themselves. This allows the public to be motivated to do something for themselves and be active participants in the road to change.
Basically, everyone has a role to play, and journalists can’t play two roles at the same time. Journalism as a profession should be looked at in the same way as any other profession. It is not a light that can be automatically switched on and off. Journalists should always be aware of what is happening around them at all times of the day, even when their 9-5 responsibilities have been completed.
The question has been asked many times – how should journalists handle a situation, for example, if they happen to witness an accident nearby. Should they stop and help, or simply stop to take a picture? The sensible thing in a situation like that is to call the ambulance. However, taking a simple picture of the tragedy (to explain the situation) while waiting for help shouldn’t be a bad thing. The journalist can’t get involved – simply and obviously – because they are neither trained nor equipped to do so.
For journalists to be personally involved in social change is a contradiction in itself, because they will be gaining information objectively but finding solutions which they can only do subjectively. Where is the line then drawn? Is this what journalists studied to do? Help in finding possible solutions to our everyday problems is a job for government, and the role of the journalist should simply be to report the facts.
Journalists don’t choose what they witness on a daily basis, nor do they choose the information that they find. However, the drive and passion for what they do may not amount to how much they get paid, or the amount of effort they go through to keep the public in the know.
Making the public aware of what is happening is more than enough, simply because there are other things to be revealed each day. And being a hero in solving the problems is simply not part of the job description.
In a nutshell, the earlier part cautions that due to the subjectivity of the contextual framework popularised by the mainstream media in telling the Libyan story, its lessons could well elude Africa. My submission is that the truth demands that the narrative of ‘Gaddafi the dictator’ be informed by common events as the one of ‘Gaddafi the hero.’ Any omission or exaggeration thereof violates the truth and denies Africa an opportunity to learn.
I anticipated that pockets of reactionary school of thought would soon regurgitate the Libyan dictator/autocrat narrative in opposition to a large part of the first part, but I could not labour it any further. Maybe the key theme was meant for those with a keen sense of African institutional memory; those who do not locate history in a vacuum.
It should be borne in mind that in the same way that Africa produced a Nelson Mandela, the continent also gave birth to a Muammar Gaddafi. And these names belong to great men of their time who were groomed within the revolutionary morality of African liberation; and perhaps pushed to opposite extremes in their journey.
While Gaddafi will be remembered for his determination on the idea of a ‘United States of Africa’, he was not the first and probably not the last African leader to pursue that ideal. Centuries before his Gaddafi’s time, King Shaka ka Senzangakhona also envisioned one black nation under the rule of the Zulu tribe. His strategy and tactics was to also create one mighty army under his command. Some have submitted that this ideal was the spark which ignited the Mfecane wars in the 19th century.
Both these African soldiers are not with us today, but the vision of a united African state is unlikely to die in centuries to come. Therefore we should learn that a future conception of a united African state should never again be founded on the pursuit of military supremacy, but on one informed by the intellectual depth of a strong African identity.
It would not be far-fetched to suggest that the success of Western countries in extending their military power beyond their borders is underpinned by a strong national identity, and without this solid national identity such a mission could have easily been undermined, as has been the case in Libya.
But future African leaders should – like Gaddafi – never allow themselves to be paralysed by the fear of success and accordingly refrain from taking strategic risks in the interest of the people. No future African leader should ever live in fear of his own people, for if that moment arrives it would be time to revisit the covenant between the leadership and the people.
Perhaps like Gaddafi, future African leaders should constantly seek solutions to better the lives of the people and pursue these with the necessary vigor, bearing in mind that these must not be ideas that remain in anyone’s head; hidden from the masses. “Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures.” – (Cabral A; 1965)
ANC youth league president Julius Malema writes in the Sunday times: “[African] liberation movements have also tended to leave the masses behind [partially or totally] in confronting the challenges and the crises of the untransformed [continent].” Perhaps this rings true on the downfall of Gaddafi.
(here endeth the last lesson)
While Muslim women such as Hind Ahmas and Najate Nait Ali are making global headlines with their defiant battle against the French government for the basic right to don the burqa in France and some parts of Europe, those in countries with no such restrictions are taking their sartorial expression of faith to another level.
Bright scarves, embellished details and wedges are just a few key items many fashion-conscious South African Muslim women will be wearing this season as part of the global hijab style movement.
Hijab fashion lovers say the style is a fast-growing alternative for fashion-conscious Muslim women, who adapt mainstream fashion trends to Islamic wear without compromising their cultural values.
21-year-old Cape Town blogger Tasneem Jaffer explained the basic hijab requirements for women, adding that men also have their own requirements for hijab.
“The word hijab is commonly used to refer to the headscarf, although that is not the only meaning. The requirement of hijab is to cover your body in a way that does not reveal the shape of your body and that the clothes not be transparent. The body parts that are allowed to be revealed are the hands, face and feet,” she said.
Sameera Badsha, 24, who co-owns a Durban boutique with her sister, said wearing patterned and brightly coloured head-scarves is one of the simplest ways she discovered to individualise her look.
“I’ve always been one who loves fashion and when I began wearing the headscarf I still wanted to keep my personal style, so I adapted it in a more modest way. I started wearing more trousers as well as more blouses and also skirts and tops with 3/4 sleeves. I try to make it more fashionable with the mix and match trend by wearing stripes and maybe a brightly coloured scarf,” she said.
Jaffer, who said she first became aware of the movement when she started wearing a head-scarf in 2009, agreed.
“I think it would take me a full day to count how many headscarves are in my house. I have scarves lying around in shelves, drawers, hanging in cupboards and on rails. My best friend is a black headscarf which I wear often; it is one of my basic clothing items. When I’m in my house I seldom have a scarf on, but when I leave my house I’m rarely without a scarf. When I am at home around my immediate family and female friends, hijab is not deemed compulsory,” she said.
Although the abayaa – the traditional long, flowing and usually black dress worn by Muslim women – is the garment most associated with observing hijab, Jaffer said it is not the only option available to women.
“Adapting to hijab is much easier than one would imagine. To hijabify a mini dress I would add jeans and a cardigan or long sleeve top. The great thing about Hijab style is that we’re not wearing anything out of the ordinary. We are wearing clothing all females wear, just in a different way,” she said.
However, for those who more often prefer the abayaa, a whole range of fashion styles are also available, according to Johannesburg-based Silk boutique co-owner, Aneesa Omar. Omar said the women’s Islamic wear boutique was started as a family business seven and a half years ago when she, her mother and sisters realized that there was a gap in the South African Islamic fashion design market.
“We realised that ladies were becoming more religious yet wanted to remain trendy and fashionable. In the past, garments were basic and lacking detail so we added stylish cuts, exquisite embroidery and more detailing on the abayaa. Our designs change seasonally following international, catwalk trends, which we adapt to the modest garment,” she said.
Omar, who designs the boutique’s range alongside her mother, said the store uses Indian and Arabian imported fabric and haberdashery to produce locally made garments. This, she said, is to help customers keep up with international trends at local prices. She said customers can also design their own abayaa.
23-year-old Aishah Amin, a Malaysian architecture lecturer, is a 1355-fan strong style blogger on fashion blogging site lookbook.nu.
Amin, who was brought up in England and returned to work in Malaysia as an adult, said her mother had taught her to wear hijab at a very young age.
“Even though at the time I didn’t have any friends who wore the hijab, I still felt comfortable being in my hijab and staying true to my values. I started wearing the hijab permanently when I was about 11,” she said.
“Here in Malaysia, I can say that almost 70% of the Muslim women wear hijab. And from my observation, hijab style has been quite fast to grow on the women here. Maybe it’s because although a lot of them wear hijab, they don’t really filter it to suit the Islamic principles and follow fashion trends blindly. I see a lot of women wearing headscarves that expose the neck, chest and so on. From my opinion, some trends and style really don’t suit the Muslim dress code,” said Amin.
One of Amin’s hijab looks is an exquisitely put together “colour-blocking” ensemble. Her take on the current global fashion trend – which focuses on using at least 3 different bold colours in an outfit – includes a flowing, floor-length coral dress teamed with a lavender blazer, light coral head-scarf and a turquoise clutch. Even her traditional all-black abayaa outfit is given an individual twist with a black long-sleeve kimono wrap dress with a pink waist-band detail over black pants and a matching pink clutch.
Amin said hijab style began to gain ground in Malaysia with the collaboration of Muslim designer Hana Tajima- Simpson and Muslim Malaysian singer Yunalis Zarai, who goes by the stage name Yuna. Like Badsha and Jaffer, Amin describes herself as an ordinary girl who loves fashion but refuses to compromise her values.
“I think it’s quite obvious that hijab style was on the rise after the Yuna-Tajima collaboration. Hana Tajima was the “it” girl in hijab fashion and Yuna is the only well-known singer in Malaysia that wears hijab. Both of then had already had a huge a group of fans, so when they met and started to collaborate on projects, I can say that their fan base grew even bigger. I’ve met both of them a few times privately and it’s a bit funny because I admire both of them, yet they say they love my style!”
Amin advised those just starting out with hijab style to experiment first with their scarves.
“For beginners I think you should have maybe a few colours of the plain headscarf. I rarely wear printed headscarves because I think plain ones are easier to mix and match with, plus they are more modest,” she said.
“I’m quite chubby, so I love clothes that give me a good silhouette. So a must-have item would be a blazer. You can dress it up, or even dress it down according to what look your going for. Second must-have is a maxi skirt. Skirts are so comfy and very in fashion right now,” said Amin.
This article was re-published with the permission of the Sunday Times Extra edition, in which it first appeared.
By: Busisiwe Deyi
Guest blog written by Miss Deyi. She is temporarily living in Kampala Uganda as part of the exchange programme between the University of Makerere and the University of Pretoria (Human Rights Centre).She is currently completing her LLM in Human Rights and Democratization.
When I visit a place I like to visit the grungy, shacky, ugly side of that place. I am addicted to difference, I can’t stand the “normal”. Normal makes my thoughts curl up in anger, literally I can feel my mind ready to revolt at every opportunity when my space to express my difference comes under threat. So you can imagine when I realized I live next to a bustling market area called Wandegeya. Here ladies you can find the best shoes, at the lowest prices (OK, low is an under exaggeration, I mean dirt cheap).
The food is gorgeous, there’s this savoury flat bread (almost pancake-like) called Chapati, I AM ADDICTED TO THAT THING!!!! I literally eat chapati day and night, for every meal of the day. Uganda has an eccentricity and life that that resonates with my inner crazy person.
So every day I walk down to Wandegeya and buy myself some Chapati and chicken from Chicken Tonight (and a catchy slogan to match… I feel like Chicken Tonight), and the Chapati place is called Obama’s ( I know LEGENDARY!!!!). And then it hit me….it hit me why I love these sites of difference, Wandegeya represents the hypocrisy of Ugandans (big generalization).
Like any African country, its very Christian (with a tinge of Islam) but when you look beyond the artificial veneer you find your prostitutes, homos, beggars, easy wumyn, even easier men…the would-be scabs of a society that shuns its truths. I don’t always like these truths though. Like the truth of infants (yes I mean infants, barely 5 years old) begging on the street.
The sight made my heart sink, my heartbeat was suddenly too-loud, beads of sweat appeared on my temples and my upper lip… should I give this child money, should I not? I had made it a cardinal rule never to give beggars money.
I gave to the charities that help them, but what charity would I give to in Uganda, what toll-free line do I call, what tin can at the cash counter do I slot my change into, what number do I SMS???
Uganda has a population of about 30+ million on the space of about half of South Africa, wumyn here are baby machines, not because they want to be but because they have little option in the matter. Wumyn can give birth up to 13 kids, all because the husband wants sons, or the mere fact that there are no freely available state sponsored contraceptives (and I include condoms). Yes Uganda has a very low HIV infection rate, but my do they make up for it in birth rates, children feel like common possessions rather then precious gifts. Everything in Uganda feels like it is conspiring against wumyn.
Imagine living in a place where you had no control over your reproductive system, where your sexuality was basically policed if you are a wumyn. A lot of South Africans feel that South Africa is too liberal. But imagine for a while being a site for birth, you couldn’t enjoy sex fully because at the back of your mind your always thinking about NOT getting pregnant.
This is my point…..
I love my sexuality, I love expressing it, I love being unashamed about who I love and how I love them. The most important vehicle has been the freedom I enjoy with my body, the options that I have with it. I cannot imagine being in a space that for me made my body a maternal prison. Where my sexuality was censored and designated a role that was not of my choosing. it is not until you move beyond South Africa, that you realize that South African wumyn are the luckiest in Africa.
Opinions expressed on the blog are those of Busisiwe Deyi and do not a reflect the views of University of Pretoria nor University of Makerere
To read more about Miss Deyi’s experience in Uganda, you can find her on Facebook
If you are in search of a high quality of living Melbourne is the place to be, well at least according to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Survey.
The survey assessed 140 cities worldwide according to the “challenges that might be presented to an individual’s lifestyle.”
The cities that were at the top of the list are perceived to be in the “very top tier of livability, where few problems are encountered … presenting few, if any, challenges to residents’ lifestyles.”
I was rather disappointed that no African cities made it into the top ten. And at the bottom of the list were seven African cities, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), Douala (Cameroon), Tripoli (Libya), Algiers (Algeria), Lagos (Nigeria), Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) and Harare (Zimbabwe).
I’ve lived in five African cities throughout my life, but only spanning three countries. There is no disputing that there are problems in terms of infrastructure and service delivery.
But in the same vein I have also been to Europe, the United State and Asia and nothing compares to living in an African city.
There’s a certain buzz in African cities, the people, the crowded streets and taxi’s that whiz by you without a care, much to your irritation in the moment.
The flea markets, where you can find anything from a brand new watch to morning slippers.
Fresh produce in abundance at a fraction of what it will cost you in the store. Mind you it’s not mass produced, and before “organic” became a selling point for marketers that is what we were raised on.
The list could literally go on and on…
I do wish every household on our continent had access to electricity, water, and decent sanitation. That we had access to effective transportation systems, decreased crime rates, political stability and less pollution.
That perhaps is not the reality of the African state, and it may not be ideal. But I wouldn’t trade my reality, because as far as I’m concerned our cities are still environments fit to live in and we can only work towards making them better.
I asked an awkward question in a packed lecture theatre at university once. Our Media studies advertising course had a guest lecturer, a creative type from an advertising agency who had spent years in the industry and had won lots of awards and been all over the world stoking his creative light and generally spinning words into gold for a hideous number of international brands.
The lecture itself was fascinating – I still reference his witty and cynical take on product differentiation to this day – and I remember I was so engrossed in what he had to say that it seemed like mere moments before he was done with the presentation and it was question time.
Several people asked the usual – how to get into the industry, whether he had ever used drugs, how did he feel about advertising from a moral point of view. Then I raised my hand, opened my mouth and said something horribly, horribly vulgar – “How much can we expect to earn?” Everyone stared.
He moved from one leg to the other nervously twiddling his chalk and told me that, well, most people didn’t go into advertising to get rich but because they had a passion for the job and that if that was the kind of way we wanted to approach the industry than we probably wouldn’t get very far. But, to answer the question, it might begin as low as R2000 and we would have to slowly work our way to the top. I sat there mortified and outraged.
Mortified, because of the, oh, hundreds of minds simultaneously churning around me – “…howrudehowrudehowrudehowrudehowrudehowrude…”
Outraged because I was trapped in a room with those same minds to which it had never occurred to interrogate this language of so-called passion because they had never been in the position to test whether passion actually pays the bills.
There is something which we were not taught in school, our generation. The more people I meet, the more I lament this. Paradigms.
The consciousness that we each possess a world-view that is not necessarily universally true just because it is true to us.
The knowledge that others do not live as we live or think as we think.
The understanding that what we hold to be sacrosanct is not equally divine to others because they may have other things to worry about.
From all the people I have met in what I call the third sphere of society, the middle classes, I have seldom met anyone who ventures out of their cosy middle-class world-view long enough to realise that some people are too poor to afford to be passionate.
Strange. But true. See, the unspoken assumption of our gentleman lecturer was that everyone in that lecture theatre came from homes where the only people they owed anything to were themselves. He assumed that everyone in that lecture theatre had homes. He assumed that we all were just embarking on the great unfettered adventures of our lives as he had been at our age.
All from homes not too rich and not too poor, with no dependents, no 12-member families relying on us to dredge them from poverty. No twisting emptiness in our stomachs because we hadn’t eaten that day. No 2-hour walks home alone in the dark because we didn’t have the R3.50 to take the skidonky bhopopo bus. No pressing realisation that, before some of us could even begin to consider those things they call “dreams” and this thing they call “passion”, we would first have to come to grips with that thing they call “staying alive”.
Some people are too poor and too poorly schooled to speak of passion.
Passion is a terribly cruel and terribly powerful figment of mass bourgeois imagination. Passion is a tyrant.
When you apply for funding, when you go for a job interview, when you enter a competition, your words, your actions mean nothing to most people unless you mention that secret password, “passion”.
You must say, I am passionate about this idea, I am passionate about your company, I am passionate about selling massive amounts of useless junk to people who don’t really have the means to buy it by telling them that it will make them better mothers, or manlier men, or cooler youths, or simply better human beings.
I have middle-class friends. They may find this offensive because, well, they can’t be blamed for the fact that they were born into privilege and they can’t be expected to apologise for the fact that their parents worked hard to send them to decent schools, and, sorry, but they really resent what I am saying, they disagree because – no, because, no, I really must let them finish, LET THEM FINISH, right, thank you. What they were saying is, is that I, I do not understand what I am talking about, I do not know what I am talking about in fact let’s just leave it, let’s just stop this conversation here right now…
Don’t get me wrong. All of my middle-class friends are fine, noble and up-standing people from whom I have learnt much. Conscious people, who read Biko and pay their taxes and register to vote on time. And give to charity and join civil organizations and admire advocates of human rights. They worry about global warming and tweet about politics and learn several languages and broaden their minds through travel whenever they can. My middle-class friends want to make South Africa great, they want to change the world, want to spark the revolution, be the revolution, televise the revolution, tweet the revolution, look back at the revolution and wonder if it was worth the revolution.
I have a suspicion though. A terrible, horrible, no-good suspicion, that it takes more than just going to school to secure your future because you need to have an education which is the key to success to actually succeed. Oh no. I profoundly suspect that it takes much more than that.