Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm Not A Bitch, I Just Don't Like You

A while back, a friend’s birthday party turned into an impromptu reunion as many old friends from varsity found ourselves congregated. As these things go, we got to reminiscing about the good old days, before that quasi-adulthood, being a student, came to an end.

As we spoke, I’d be playing it down to say, I was taken aback when I realised the image that some - meaning all - of my friends had of me was vastly different to how I perceived myself.

Personally, I’ve seen myself as a mildly funny but generally nice guy, however to my friends that’s not who I am. As one magnanimously put it, I’m “mean,” or as another stated bluntly, “a bitch.” I would’ve pouted and flounced about as only a real man can had they not started reminding me of moments where perhaps some credence was lent to their point.

Of the many so-called facts my so-called friends listed about me to support their lie, the most damnable was that I hate fat people.

Whilst it’s true, many people do hate fat people and I have at times had my less than diplomatic moments on the topic, I don’t get why anybody would hate somebody for being fat. That’s ridiculous, stupid and frankly; prejudicial. Furthermore, if I’m to be accused of this, let’s be specific. It’s the morbidly obese rather than the fat I take umbrage to. And more so, what really irks me how (some) try to fob off their personal responsibility in the matter, arguing that obesity is a disease or some such claptrap.

For despite what Empress Oprah the Magnificent may say; that’s rubbish. A disease, obesity is not. People who suffer from real diseases have for the most part not done anything to deserve them. Obesity, however, is a problem that can be easily handled; eat less or exercise more, or even better yet, do both, and before you say, “but I have a thyroid problem,” know that I hear, “unluckily you have to eat even less or exercise even more.”

I once saw a woman who despite the pleas of the flight attendant refused to sit in her seat because as she shouted, “you make them too small!” In my opinion, that flight attendant should’ve taken JetBlue flight attendant, Steven Slater’s, master-class on how to deal with passengers, thus I have no pity when the grossly obese are forced to pay for an extra seat. Despite what the NAAFA (the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, yes it’s real and obviously it’s American) says, it’s not discrimination when airlines do this, it’s to ensure the comfort and yes, the safety even, of all passengers.

I will admit, in my fervour for this topic, I may have sometimes crossed the line with some slightly off colour jokes and comments, But for what reason do we have and cherish the freedom of speech if not to insult and make cheap jokes at the expense of others?

But before we get on our respective high horses, let’s for a moment consider what it is that’s so horrible here? Is it perhaps that some people are offended?

Fact is, just about anything and particularly any joke is certain to offend somebody, however, I’d rather live in a society where I have that freedom rather than the politically correct, but lobotomised horror the PC Brigade is leading us to. The comedian Steve Hughes sums it up best when he says; “When did sticks and stones stop being relevant? Isn’t that what you teach children for God’s sakes? You’re offended? You’re an adult! Grow up! Deal with it!”

On yet another moment, where I essentially was being taken to task, I came to realise that perhaps the issue is the irreverence shown?

As I was told, “within every joke is a bit of truth.” This isn’t a charge I deny. Regardless how flippant whatever I say is, there is an element of what I believe to it. In the case of fat jokes; I’m not comfortable with obesity, I don’t like it, but ultimately I’m joking and nothing more. To that, he replied, “words have power.” Seeing that we were playing a game of parrying clich├ęs, I replied in kind, “life’s too short to always be serious.”

But back to my friend – and I do regard him as one - When he called me a bitch, though he didn’t say it maliciously, it remained stuck in my mind, keeping me tossing and turning through the night as I wondered about his comment. After much thought though, I know I’m not.

Yes, some things are too serious to be funny… But only until that line is said that makes them funny. I may not like something or even you… But I most certainly am not a bitch.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Boys Will Be Boys

No serious person would ever deny this, being gay can be difficult. Be it dealing with homophobia or trying to live at 100% fabulous, it is a complicated life.

Despite what the name belies, ‘gaydar,’ that innate ability of gays to ferret each other out from the crowd is no science. It essentially is what all people do, look for those signals that maybe, just maybe, that other person could be interested; and as with any signals, they can be crossed. For the single gay guy out on the town, searching for a beau, or beaux, those signals have just become intricately more convoluted.

Last month, a UK study found, amongst high school and university students, the prevalence of heterosexual males kissing each other had skyrocketed with 95% of respondents saying they had done so. A mixed signal to be sure. At first thought, that lone gay may want to believe those kinds of European shenanigans are not on in Africa, not even in that African slice of Europa, Cape Town.

However, as has been proved by the number of women who are famous for no other reason other than being able to don bikinis, or ‘glamour models,’ as they’re known in the land of our former colonial master, what begins there, sooner, rather than later makes its way down here.

To the disquiet of the gay on the prowl, this trend continues. The study also found that it is not only the chaste fraternal kiss being exchanged between straight males. The full on snog, probably best demonstrated by a furtive Jacob Zuma meeting up with Sonono Khoza in a dark corner of the Nkandla homestead, or “sustained” kiss as the study termed it, is also on the rise, with 37% of respondents indicating they had engaged in this activity.

This may seem to be something of a surprise, with our homosexual friend jumping to the default position of, “Well that is a load of rubbish! They must be gay as the day is long!” Yet, he should consider the following. Whilst for the gay man, this is a new and worrying development, for lesbians this is old news. Ever since Britney ever so (in)famously locked lips with Madonna, the straight girl kiss has been a thing of norm. As the great vocal digital manipulation artist, Katy Perry, in her magnum opus, I Kissed A Girl, croons, “I got so brave, drink in hand, lost my discretion,” and, “I kissed a girl just to try it, I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.”

Unlike the cougar, this is not one of those fads, which seems to inhabit Hollywood alone. On any night of the week, in the favoured haunts of our future-leaders, the student nightclubs of Claremont in Cape Town or Melville in Johannesburg, to give just two examples, this can be witnessed. As such, that girl and her girl-friend standing on a table, locking lips will soon have to vie for attention with that boy and his boet, doing the very same thing.

Though those concerned about the moral compass of our society may worry that this is a sure sign that the gay agenda to indoctrinate the gay lifestyle within our children is succeeding, take heed of this fact. Those in their never-ending quest to be cool, are just partaking in what is nothing more than a fad. Safely ensconced in the South African strongholds of moral rectitude, where men are men and women know their place, where good traditional family values still reign, you will never have to witness this. Just as in the UK, such examples of moral depravity will be found in those dens on liberal iniquity, universities, or anywhere the wayward youth are to found injecting their new-fangled drugs into their eyeballs and partaking in sins of the flesh.

However, for those, with a slightly more sensible mindset, would be interested to note that, though a fad, study researcher, Eric Anderson, stated that this development, be it the chaste kiss or the sustained kiss, indicates that, “these men have lost their homophobia (and that) they're no longer afraid to be thought gay by their behaviours.”

In as much that no serious person would deny that being gay is difficult, no serious person would complain about the changes in attitudes this study indicates. Even then, one cannot help but think about that lone gay. Faced with those team-mates from the rugby team in a ‘sustained kiss,’ his mind fills with that warm rush of excitement, only to be tempered with the cold reality of confusion as he thinks, ‘maybe they are just two friends, just having fun and nothing more.’

With boys being boys, his life just became a whole lot more difficult.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Put Your Back Into It...

I do not know why or when this happened, but to me, it seems that in the last decade or so, the etiquette of hugging has changed a lot. Perhaps it is my discomfort with hugging that has changed my memories but I near on certain things were not this way. Far as I remember, coming to a point where you hugged someone was a marker that your friendship had graduated to a new level and at such a point, where you have developed something of a relationship with someone, I have absolutely no issue with hugs. However, to me, it seems that nowadays, hugging is part of the normal social discourse and is expected from the outset. At times, it almost seems if you do not hug, you are to be looked at with an element of distrust, for you must be some sort of misanthrope destined to be the next Oklahoma bomber.

Being someone who hangs out with a fair number of ‘liberal types,’ an old friend of mine used to sneer, I run into more than my fair share of huggers. When engulfed in a warm embrace from someone whom you would have been more than happy to have given a mere handshake a lot of thoughts can run through your mind, sometimes, particularly when hugged by the creative, artistic type, the thought comes straight from my nose to my brain. But more often than not, the thought is one of, how did I end up in this situation, how is it that this person I don’t know, is holding me, clutching me, overpowering me with themselves?

As such, whilst there is not much I’m certain on when it comes to that great question, ‘who am I,’ this much I am certain of; despite all indications to the otherwise, I am a reserved person. BFF1 and BFF2 would attest to this, having had to poke, prod and prick until I revealed the most basic of details about myself. Thanks to them, and a few years of life experience, despite it being who I am, I have somewhat learnt how to navigate life without entirely coming off as an utter social dilettante. Living in an Oprah-fied world, where talking about feelings, expressing yourself, and finding “Eat, Pray, Love,” to be the greatest film of all time, and a book you swear to one day read, it is not easy being someone such as myself, someone who enjoys other people, but not too much of them.

Fighting off the last remnants of a hangover, lying on a bed, BFF3 next to me, when this guy walked in, I was certain I was to be spared a hug. Yes, I may have been fully dressed, yes, he may have known BFF3, but the facts remained; He was a stranger, I was in a bed, and failing that, BFF3 next to me would certainly act as a buffer in ensuring no hug was deployed my way. As he said his goodbyes, all of 20mins after I had met him, he threw hugs his hugs around the room, then came to BFF3 and hugged her, I breathed a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that there was no way that he would even try with me.

As he practically climbed over BFF3, lay atop of me and enveloped me with his arms saying, ‘put your back into it,’ much of what’s written here ran through my mind, was this what life was to be like forever? Even with the barrier of another human being, the awkward position of being on a bed, was a handshake, a goodbye wave not okay, was the hug still to be forced upon me, was it too much ask just to be left alone?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Golden Age Of Mandela: Is It Over

“Madiba is like the biblical Moses, who took the children of Israel from the land of bondage, to the Promised Land, the land of milk & honey.” This quote from ANC spokesperson, Jackson Mthembu heralded the beginning Nelson Mandela’s birthday celebrations which can sometimes seem to stretch a good couple of months. It would seem there is an argument to be made that Jackson Mthembu missed his calling as that piece of prose is almost second to none. Only almost, as I would not discount the ANCYL’s Nyiko Floyd Shivambu, (he of the infamous Helen Zille’s sleeping around comments) being able to one up even those dizzying height of hyperbole.

I may joke, but as of late, I have noticed that there is a shift in South Africa to no longer look at Mandela in the golden hue in which he is presented. This is a debate and a critique that I welcome. The majority of comments I have read & heard on this debate have been fair & evenhanded; highlighting that South Africa’s freedom was not won by Mandela single-handedly. As Winnie Mandela is alleged to have said to the London Evening Standard, “There were many, others, hundreds who languished in prison and died. Many unsung and unknown heroes of the struggle, and their were others in the leadership too…” Other critiques have centred on his legacy purely as a politician, questioning his policy decisions, RDP, HIV/AIDS Macro-Economic policy etc. These discussions are both fair and necessary.

However, there is also a disquieting minority which whether intentional or not, strike as flippantly dismissive of Mandela’s legacy, merely scoffing, showing an attitude of, ‘Mandela, yeah whatever.’ With flights of fancy such as that of Jackson Mthembu it is east to be derisive. However, that does not change that it is also lazy and to be frank; stupid. The basis of these comments seems to be that there is no substance to the image of Mandela that we have. This notion leave me both angry and confused.

From the moment he was dubbed the ‘black pimpernel,’ Mandela became a figure shrouded in a sense of mystery. Upon his release, the mystery to a degree ended, another era in the image of Mandela came to be, the era of Mandela, ‘the living legend.’ One cannot deny that the image the world has of Mandela has transcended who he is, however, that does not mean there is no substance to the image we have of him. His name is now uttered with those of Ghandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. Mandela during his incarceration was used by the ANC as a call around which all South Africans and people around the world against the Apartheid regime could rally. Used is perhaps too strong of a term as Mandela himself was quite willing for this, to happen.

Mandela is quoted as saying: “That was one of the things that worried me – to be raised to the position of a semi-god – because then you are no longer a human being. I wanted to be known as Mandela, a man with weaknesses, some of which are fundamental, and a man who is committed, but, nevertheless, sometimes fails to live up to expectations.” Despite these misgivings, Mandela allowed himself to become what South Africa needed. Someone that no other politician or figure in South Africa could play. Mandela is a figure around which South Africans of all races and creeds could look up to and admire. Mandela was more than a hero for black South Africans; he was a hero for ALL South Africans. Mandela has allowed us to transcend the multitudes of ways we choose to separate ourselves from each other, has shown us a way forward to forgiving each other of our past wrongs or as one tweet put it, “Zuma may have fathered half the nation, but #NelsonMandelaRocks because he’s the one who raised us.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Barack Obama On Iraq: The Next George Bush?

Part of then presidential hopeful, Senator Barack Obama’s, platform was a steadfast promise to bring the troops home and pull out of Iraq. Though I was a supporter, I believed that the US had no choice but to remain in Iraq for a far longer term than what Senator Obama was selling to voters. But I was in on the secret. In all my infinite wisdom and jaded world weariness, I knew what Senator Obama’s true plan was. I knew that the Iraq war would never truly end. Yes, the war would ‘end,’ but with a long-term presence of American troops left in Iraq to ‘advise, assist & support Iraqi troops.’

In much the same way, Sarah Palin made the call on President Obama’s ‘hopey changey stuff,’ I made the call on Senator Obama’s electoral strategy on Iraq; rather than a bait & switch, it was a bait and hook. Show them what they want and give it to them, but with a till then unseen hook

Again, like Sarah Palin; I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Seven years, five months & twelve days after George W. Bush sat in the Oval Office and announced the start of America’s invasion of Iraq, Barack Obama sat in that very same office to announce the end of US combat operations in Iraq and reiterate the US’ agreement with Iraq to have a full troop pull-out by 2011. Perhaps remembering the ignominy that followed George Bush’s turn as a fighter pilot when he announced an end to ‘major combat operations,’ and stated the Iraq mission accomplished, the tone of Barack Obama’s address was far more sombre and presidential and far less John Wayne in the mould of Tom Cruise. Though Obama was being forthright in his campaign, however one has to wonder was this decision to pull-out is a decision many years too early, whether it is a decision that will one day come back to haunt Obama and but most importantly America.

The fact is, whilst there may be a largely irrelevant debate over whether this truly marks an ‘end’ to the US’ war in Iraq, or will that milestone only be truly reached in 2011 when all US troops have pulled out of Iraq, legally, and for all intents and purpose this US’ involvement in this war was finished, as promised, by Barack Obama when he made that address. As it ought to be, come 2012, Iraq will most probably not be an issue for Obama. However, undoubtedly part of Obama’s legacy, something that any US president holds dear and will fiercely defend, is this decision to end the Iraq War. Question is, though right now to America, this is one of the best things Obama has done, 5yrs, 10yrs down the line, will this be looked back on as one of the worst?

Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans support a troop pull-out, unlike Obama, polling also shows that Americans, neither believe that Iraqi security forces or the Iraqi government will be able to maintain the peace or successfully handle the political situation respectively. Having always had American troops to be the proverbial ‘security blanket,’ we can’t be certain just how the Iraqi troops will fare in handling Iraqi security. However, when it comes to the politics, the signs don’t bode well. Despite successfully holding elections earlier this year, Iraq, six months later, is still yet to form a government. Even more worrying is that much of the infighting between Iraqi politicians in forming their government is the very thing Barack Obama stated in his Oval Office address the Iraqi people have rejected; sectarianism, perhaps the greatest danger to Iraq’s future, which thus in turn presents a danger to America’s future as well.

Should the opinion of Americans be vindicated and the very tenuous peace, or rather, what passes for peace in Iraq fails to hold, what then? There of course, is the possibility that what America already sees as the ‘maligning influence,’ of Iran in Iraq may increase. In comparison to the worst case, and not at all far-fetched scenario, that outcome, would most probably be seen as a victorious. What most analysts fear, and some believe may occur, is that Iraq could become a failed state, particularly a failed state on the order of Somalia and Pakistan; a state where Al-Qa’ida has been able to gain a foothold and from there launch its operations. Even though the focus is on ‘home-grown terrorists,’ as George Santayana wrote, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Yes, Al-Qa’ida in Pakistan is focused on Pakistan & Al-Qa’ida is Somalia is focused on Somalia, but on the 10th of September 2001, general thought on Al-Q’aida in Afghanistan was that it to, was just focused on Afghanistan. The next day we all saw the danger they can pose regardless where they’re based.

The history books are littered with cases of the leaders who took decisive actions against the advice and warnings of many only to be proven to have miscalculated greatly, quite fitting, the most recent example is of course George W. Bush, who seven years, five months & eleven days ago to Obama’s address, decisively invaded Iraq. The arguments against a pullout in Iraq are far less widespread and in the face of the losses the US has faced in Iraq this is understandably so, nevertheless the arguments do exist. Despite the belief of those who support those arguments there is no way of knowing what will happen in an Iraq without the US, and we will have to wait and see if Barack Obama will come to rue sitting in the Oval Office to make an announcement on Iraq in as much as George Bush surely must.

The Unity of The World Cup Is Gone & We’re The Better For It

Though I somewhat remember them, I was too young to truly appreciate how momentous our first democratic elections were in 1994, or how South Africa united behind the Springboks during the 1995 Rugby World Cup. For me, never had I seen South Africans be as one as they were during the Football World-Cup. At twelve noon on the 9th of June, South Africa ground to a halt and the world was introduced to the now ubiquitous sound of the 2010 Football World Cup, the vuvuzela. Though World Cup euphoria had been gripping the nation for a while prior to that moment, for me, it was only in that moment that I realised just how big of a deal the World Cup was going to be. The World Cup of course was all about the football, however, but for South Africans, the most memorable aspect of it was the sense of unity we felt. As Jackie Janse Van Rensburg, commented on a previous blog post, “to me, it was never about the game per se, I love the vibe, the unity, the pride, the positivity we have been experiencing.”

The evening of Bafana-Bafana’s encounter against Uruguay, a tweet disapproving of a comment made by CNN anchor, Hala Gorani, on air, made it’s way onto my timeline on Twitter, it said,
“Hala Gorani (#CNN) just reported that the sense of unity in SA ‘won’t last.’ WTH?!”
Despite my initial response to the World Cup, by then, as everyone else was, I was fully ‘feeling it,’ and commented on that tweet with a single word, “disappointed.” I was more than a little surprised to get a response from Hala Gorani who elucidated on her statement saying,
“Wrong. I said the World Cup excitement that unifies a country (as it did in France) naturally dissipates after the event is over.”
Basking in the glow of a World Cup successfully going off without a hitch; surrounded by the honking of vuvuzela’s; high on pre-match euphoria at that moment, forgetting all my pre-World Cup scepticism I admit, I immediately discarded the comment as nothing more than Western pessimism. Looking at what has been going on recently in South Africa, I could not have been more unfair and wrong, Hala Gorani was right, that spirit has dissipated.

When I first started writing this blog, I fully intended to lament this as a sad regression. Nevertheless, three weeks after starting it, I could not finish it. I wish I could chalk this up to ‘writers block,’ but I cannot, the reason I could not write it, was that I did not think this was a bad thing. In all the excitement over the World Cup, the enjoyment of the spirit of for the first time ever seeing what South African’s can accomplish when united as one nation, I forgot something that I’d always believed in; nationalism is anything but positive. Like many governments, the Apartheid regime used ‘nationalism,’ as a justification for many of its crimes, therefore that in democratic South Africa we have always shied away from that moniker is hardly surprising.

Patriotism, national pride, a spirit of ubuntu, call it what you will, it is nationalism. The very thing that those in power throughout history and the world over have used to corral their people from the most ridiculous of actions, to the most heinous of crimes. This is not at all an original thought on my part; wherever nationalism raised its ugly head, there have been those far more erudite than myself who have made this argument. Albert Einstein for example said, “Nationalism is an infantile disease… it is the measles of mankind,” or even more succinctly, William Blum who wrote, “If love is blind, patriotism has lost all five senses.”

Many would say that the national pride that we experienced in South Africa is different, that we spearheaded it, not following any directive. To have pride in yourself, or something that you can ascribe to being part of is natural to people, that’s why we’re proud of ourselves, our families, of our cultural groupings, that’s why we move to being proud of ourselves as a nation, even with no real push from governments. However, that in itself is the very insidious nature of nationalism. It does not necessarily have to start as something that those in charge have created, but they invariably turn back and draw on it for their own purposes.

This may seem far-fetched but it is happening. As it became clear that a strike was inevitable, the government not only began to portray workers as ill-informed on their offer, and thus irresponsible in their threat to strike, but also as unpatriotic, or for instance, in the arrest of Mzilikazi wa Afrika, the calls from the ANCYL for him to be charged with high treason. Before we all comfortably sit back and say, but nobody took either of those instances seriously, angered at Mzilikazi wa Afrika’s ‘counter-revolutionary’ articles, consider the crowd, who forced him to have to exit from the rear of the courthouse when released on bail. They may be easily dismissed; after all, they are just rabid ANC supporters with no true understanding of our constitutional values but then how many people, how many of us, when the strike started immediately commented on how this was destroying the great national spirit we had built up during the World Cup? The two examples may seem utterly antipodean, but how can that be when they are both linked by calls to the ‘greater good of national unity.’

Yes, the national pride that we had was a heady joy. For someone like myself, for whom South Africa had always been a nation of people constantly at each others throats, and I imagine even for those who remember the 1994 elections, or Francois Pienaar lifting the Rugby World Cup trophy with Nelson Mandela by his side, it was amazing to see us all standing together for one common cause. Be that as it may, that has passed, and though it’s more than natural for us to feel despondent to see ourselves returning to the way we were, I’d rather things be this way. I wish I could see it another way, write it away in a lovely fashion, but the fact is, without that spirit of national unity we are an ugly nation. We have seen ourselves at our worst in the last couple of weeks with the Press debates, and the strike. Nevertheless, amidst all that ugliness, we have seen ourselves at our best; not waving a flag, blowing on a vuvuzela or proudly singing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, but rather mopping the floors in a deserted hospital. I would hope that this was not because of national pride, or patriotism, but because of something far more simple, something not innate in South Africans only, but innate in humanity as a whole I would like to think; because it was the right thing to do.

Friday, August 20, 2010

ANC and COSATU: The Greatest Dangers To Worker’s Rights

Come the announcement that the government and COSATU have entered into wage negotiations, South Africans knows we have entered into another one of our political circus seasons. COSATU leaders take a moment from their daily work of partaking in the various squabbles and factional battles of the ANC. Government and trade unions engage in their debate of who, if anyone should be barred from engaging from striking, on the basis that they are an ‘essential service.’ The comfortable middle-class, (ironically and hilariously often identified as ‘leftist’) dust off and trot out their usual complaints; complaints that, ‘the country is being held to ransom,’ that ‘striking is nothing more than blackmail,’ that in the face of South Africa’s soaring unemployment ‘these workers should be grateful they have a job and get back to work.’ Nevertheless, the one fear, that all share, is the 2007 Public Sector Strike, which was marked by damage to private and public property, intimidation and violence will be repeated. Regrettably this week saw that fear come to be a reality with such reports. As with the 2007 strike, as fully expected, the media has focused on these reports and COSATU has denounced the media for focusing on ‘sporadic but regrettable occurrences.’ Whether these occurrences are widespread or sporadic is of no consequence. The very fact that they occur cannot be tolerated, and that is very much what COSATU and by in large government as well seems to do with their strongly worded denouncements followed by, well, followed by nothing.

The simple fact is this; the moment a striker commits violence, intimidates or in any way illegally impinges on the rights of another, they cease to be protected by the rights, which protect workers on industrial action and no longer are striking workers, but rather, are criminals. Furthermore, the actions of these criminals are ignominious for two primary reasons. Beyond their basic criminality, they present perhaps the greatest danger to the crucial right of workers to engage in industrial action. More so than any call The Right may make against these rights.

With each successive wave of violence and intimidation at the hands of these so-called strikers, the public understandably gets even more disillusioned with unions and the strikes they embark upon. What the government (which has regularly reiterated their support for protecting this right) and COSATU have to realise is that their empty rhetoric of denunciation is just as, if not more so, harmful to the right to strike than the actions themselves. People have a right to expect health-care when going to a hospital that their kids will be safe when at school, that if they choose not to participate in a strike, they will be free of intimidation.

However, having spoken to some striking workers, I have come to realise that these actions are not the acts of marauding hooligans, as the media often seems to depict them. There are reasons behind it. Firstly, the statements the government puts out which characterise their position as intractable does nothing more than add oil to an understandably angry fire. The initial tone of these messages, dismissive of the actions and that the government can handle the crises (though this has clearly been shown to be not true) further engenders anger. Even if the government had forgotten, recent events particularly service delivery protests and the ‘xenophobic violence’ reminds one of the South African populace’s propensity to violence. All a result of what political theorists refer to as, Political Socialisation.

Despite all these various reasons explaining the violence of so-called strikers, the fact of the matter is, they are excuses. Near all criminals can provide a compelling reason as to why they committed the acts that they did but our legal system does not accept excuses. A broken law is a broken law, and whomever broke it must be swiftly dealt with. In another blogpost earlier this year, I mentioned how in Junior School we were taught on the correlation between rights and responsibilities. For many, in defending the rights of strikers, they have drawn on this thinking, characterising the violence and intimidation, as an ‘abuse’ of that right and it is easy to see where this idea stems from.

However, I wholeheartedly disagree. To in any way equate the violence to the strikes, muddies the water on the right of workers to embark on industrial action. I’ll reiterate this point, the violence and intimidation are in no way equitable to the majority of striking workers, who are making use of their right peacefully. The aims behind the two acts may be the same, but one is a legal and constitutionally protected action, the other a nothing more than a mere criminal act. One only hopes that sooner, rather than later, the ANC government and COSATU will realise that by issuing an endless ream of empty statements, they are not protecting the cardinally important right to strike, but rather being its greatest danger.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Barack Obama: Homophobe in Chief…

Judge Vaughn Walker, in handing down his ruling on California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, marked the 4th of August 2010 as yet another historic day in the long battle for the recognition and protection of equal rights in the US. Whether they praised or decried the decision, across America reactions poured in recognising the historic nature of this ruling. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, in her reaction recognised the two basic rights Propostion 8 violated, and referred to it as, “a stain upon the California constitution.” California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself an opponent of Proposition 8, closed his statement saying, “Today’s decision is by no means California’s first milestone, nor our last, on America’s road to equality and freedom for all people.” From President Obama, the silence was deafening. The only reaction was the following statement from a spokesperson, “The President has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transsexual) Americans.”

The reaction from ‘LGBT Americans,’ to that can be characterised overall being a resigned sigh. Murmurs of confusion and discontent on his LGBT credentials have tailed President Obama for a while now. Most of those murmurs, which are now escalating to outright denouncements, have been heard in primary from the LGBT media, but even now, the mainstream media is noticing this spreading zeitgeist.

As ­­­­­­­­­­­­­former Massachusetts State Senator,­ Jarrett Barrios, President of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) questioning whether to accept an invitation to the White House’s first ever event commemorating the Stonewall Riots, the political coming out of the LGBT community put it: “The problem is that I haven’t been as excited as I’d like to be about President Obama. I’d been excited by Candidate Obama. His campaign invited people like me and my husband Doug…into has aspirational vision of America the possible.” In running for office, Barack Obama promised many things, some attainable, some not, but most, falling into a murky grey in-between area. As candidate Obama, his LGBT positions were progressive and sympathetic to the cause, but once President Obama, there has been a marked lack of action on many of these promises.

A sad reality is that in American politics, LGBT issues tend to fall into that murky grey area though there is one that isn’t; ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ (DADT), the US military’s gay-ban. Whilst Obama using presidential powers may not be able to repeal DADT, as the repeal of this policy slowly makes its way through Congress Obama does have the power to stop its implementation, and has he? The answer to that question is a sad, expected and disappointing, no. With 80% of Americans being in favour of a repeal of DADT, scores of mainstream Republicans have also come out in favour of its repeal. This leaves Obama, who in public iterates support for such a move, and has the power to at the least to stop its implementation with the single signing of an executive order, having done nothing to support this policy.

As his time in office passes, the true image of Obama’s views on LGBT issues, despite his stated policies is starting to emerge, and the image, in light of his actions, and inactions, is a disquieting one. However, perhaps even more disquieting is the opinion, that, no, Obama is not putting forth a homophobic agenda, but rather is playing politics with basic civil rights.

In 1996, he is known to have been in favour of gay marriage. However, the higher his political aspirations have been, the further he has shifted from this unpopular position. In 2004, he then was quoted as saying he didn’t support gay marriage, and favoured civil unions, but only for strategic purposes (to advance the cause for equal rights). Though couched in politically correct language, the message is basic and as ugly as it always has been; separate but equal.

But the drift didn’t stop there. By the time he ran for office, he was stating that personally, he believed that marriage ‘is between a man & a woman,’ and that it is a ‘religious’ matter and a ‘state’ issue. Today, we are now in an even more perplexing position. By Sunday, Obama’s administration has to indicate whether it plans to appeal a decision to appeal a ruling that found an element of yet another odious piece of homophobic legislation, the Defence of Marriages Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Disappointingly, the signs are that they will, despite, yet again, Obama’s official policy being that DOMA should be repealed.

In a memorable, though nonetheless contrived piece of dialogue, from The Interpreter, Nicole Kidman’s character opines to Sean Penn’s that she is ‘disappointed,’ in the politician the movie revolves around. He replies; “Disappointed is a lover’s word.” He’s right, ‘disappointed’ is a lover’s word. That ‘disappointed’ is a word that is often used in describing Barack Obama by the left of American politics and specifically the LGBT community is telling.

Whilst to call him ‘homophobe in chief,’ may be too early a call to make, and one to harsh to be ever made, the facts are as follows. Obama presented himself as someone who could be relied on to advance the LGBT cause, that his election to the Presidency and the passing of Proposition 8 came on the same night, lessened the blow of Proposition 8. However, nearing two years into his Presidency, it is time that some serious focus is placed on this image. He says the right things, but it’s time to recognise the reality; his inactions and most damning, his actions speak volumes. Perhaps it is time for the LGBT Americans to take that disappointment and channel it into a politician who will champion the LGBT cause with real action, not just one who does so with soaring, inspiring, yet ultimately and disappointingly, empty rhetoric.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gay Pride: Is There Really A Point Anymore?

In his Daily Maverick Opinionista column, Simon Williamson asks the question that every June (LGBT Pride Month) is asked in the LGBT community & media, ‘has the time for Pride celebrations perhaps passed?’ The thrust of the argument in general is that we are now in a ‘post gay era,’ an era where one’s sexual orientation is of no importance, where ‘strategic essentialism,’ to deliberately and with purpose, separate oneself from society is no longer necessary. I must admit, this is an argument I could easily see myself agreeing with.

As Simon points out, one could argue that perhaps some prejudices and discriminatory ideas around homosexuals continue as a result of the gay community separating itself from society. That is a not an easy proposition to accept as the aim of strategic essentialism is to forward the primary gay cause, acceptance. However, no matter how difficult, it is one that must be accepted as a distinct possibility. Despite the allure of that argument, I would have to disagree and argue that; the world over, and South Africa in particular; there is still a place for strategic essentialism.

The fight for rights by minorities or any other oppressed group is never truly complete. If the undergraduate analysis can be excused, power relations in society can be said to be static, and if at all fluid, are painstakingly slow to change. A case in point is the struggle for women’s rights. Though things have undeniably advanced a century after the first wave of feminism (the fight for women’s political rights), equally undeniable is that power relations between men and women are still skewed to the former. Essentially, there is still much work being done by women’s groups to both protect and further advance the women’s cause.

Gay rights in relation, particularly gay rights in South Africa, can barely be said to be nascent and thus their protection and advancement is of utmost importance. Across the world, it is generally within particular spaces and even then so, within particular sectors of society that ‘post-gay’ is a reality. The case for South Africa is even more extreme. Most of South Africa’s LBGT individuals (as Simon points out by mentioning the horror of corrective rape) are far removed from the life promised by our progressive constitution. Yet, as with much of South Africa there’s a stark disconnect; to those of us who are gay and live relatively affluent lives in urban areas, where the notion of overt & extreme homophobia is practically foreign, we can enjoy these rights.

Despite this, we cannot be complacent, the reality is homophobic attitudes in South Africa are the prevalent opinion on gay rights. Lest we forget, our very own President stated, gay marriages were “a disgrace to the nation and to God” and that “When I was growing up, an ‘ungqigili,’ (a homosexual) would not have stood in front of me, I would knock him out.” Whilst this statement cannot be taken as irrefutable proof of malicious intent and disregard for constitutional rights afforded to the LGBT community; that statement in conjunction with the less than accepting attitude of the majority of South Africans towards gay rights goes to show the protection of these rights is of paramount importance.

To return to the point I opened with, Simon cannot be faulted with pointing out that strategic essentialism, conceivably is self-defeating. To this though, I would say strategic essentialism is only one element of the gay rights movement, the radical element. However, as the history of minority rights movements shows one needs both the radical and the more mainstream elements for there to be progress in the fight for rights, and protection for those won.

For every Andrea Dworkin who turned off so many to the Feminist cause with her militant positions & aggressive posturing, there must be a Gloria Steinem to temper those positions and postures making them acceptable within society as a whole. For every Martin Luther King Jr. who brought the American civil rights movement into the mainstream of popular political thought & culture, there must be a Malcolm X to test the limits and push the boundaries when moderation of positions turns to appeasement of the powers that be. With the gay rights movement, it is no different. For those of us who already enjoy these rights and for those who are still to benefit from them, no matter what possible alienation it may cause, the radicalism of strategic essentialism is integral to the protection and advancement of these rights.

This post was originally posted on "That's How It Is"

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Football, It’s Been Fun, But We Need To Talk…

To say I’ve never been a football fan, wouldn’t be sufficient. In fact, it would require a whole new word as ‘understatement’ just wouldn’t suffice. However, like every other South African, since June 11th I have fallen for football big time, and boy have I had it bad. Flush with the excitement of the World Cup, a part of me began to think, ‘You know what Mvelase, maybe you’ve been wrong about football all these years. This just may be the start of a beautiful sporting relationship,” and like the start of any relationship, it was beautiful.

Football flirted with me in that opening match, with the brilliance of Siphiwe Tshabalala’s opening goal, the brilliance of Itumeleng Khune and finally the heartbreaking Mexican equaliser all presaged by the pride-inducing beauty of the opening ceremony. As an act of seduction, football couldn’t have done better than that… I was a bit liquored up, it showed me the best of what it could be; how could I not fall for it?

I was so enamoured by my new discovery that I allowed friends to attempt to convince why I should support their teams in the European leagues. As my family is split down the middle on this one, I allowed both parents equal opportunity to convince me of why I should support Pirates or Chiefs. I’ll admit it, I even thought perhaps I’d give Wimbledon a miss this year and stick with the football. Those days were the best, I basked in love’s first blush, but, oh how quickly things have soured…

As is oft done in relationships, I chose to ignore those initial signs. Those markers that maybe all is not as wonderful as you want to believe it to be. I chose to ignore the numerous inexplicable decisions which were made by the refs, decisions that even a novice me could see were wrong. I thought, perhaps this was what football was meant to be like, I may not have liked it, but I could live with it. But it was too late, that small seed of doubt had been planted in my mind, and no matter how hard I tried to ignore it, I couldn’t.

Then England v. Germany & Mexico v. Argentina happened… Video replay. Need I say more?

Those matches only reinforced what I already knew. Wimbledon had started a week before and the speed with which I ran back to tennis could rival the speed at which a football player previously writhing in life threatening pain gets up when seeing the referee isn’t buying his ‘injury.’ As I tweeted after Ghana was cheated out of a semi-final spot by Luis Suarez, “The more I watch football, the more I realise this sport’s just not for me… I can’t handle this kinda stress.” Angrily-tweeting and ranting to anyone close enough to hear my threats of blue murder against Suarez, I suddenly realised what my issue with football is.

It’s not an issue of being on the losing side. Loss I can handle, I’m a Roger Federer and a Ferrari fan. In both sports, I have had to take a humbling master-class in how to handle loss after having always been on the winning side. The issue I have with football, is that quite often, too often, one feels a justified sense of rage and anger at a loss, because, to quote myself again, ‘we was robbed.’ Football’s very own Dark Overlord, Imperator Sepp Blatter, finds these egregious errors add a ‘charming human element to the game.’ I know the Imperator is somewhat preoccupied counting the billions the Empire of FIFA’s gotten from their South African adventure and refining his confidence tricks to get even more out of Brazil in 2014, but I and millions others, find these moments less ‘charming’ & more ‘infuriating.’ With an attitude like that from the administrators of football, I suddenly began to get something of a modicum of understanding for football hooligans, for what is a ‘football hooligan,’ if nothing more than an enraged fan, and was I not that?

And that’s where I realised I had to stop.

When one is suddenly seeing the world from the paradigm of boorish thugs, one must stop and evaluate how it is they ended up in that position. I had tried my utmost to ignore the less attractive parts of this beautiful game, and the beautiful game, I will now admit, it is, but there is only so much one can take. This was not to be a lifelong love. This was a month long mistake, Football was that boyfriend you look back on and think, “But what was I thinking?”

However, I am someone who likes to finish what they have started, and I will watch the World Cup to its conclusion. Till the 11th of July I will watch the games and cheer for some or other team to take the cup (let it be Argentina). But even before the euphoria has died down, before Imperator Blatter flies off while we’re still too happy to notice we’ve been fleeced, I will kick football and everything it brought into my life out on the kerb. As beautiful as this game is, my nerves cannot handle the stress of this game.

Even with the most disastrous of flings, one wants a memento. So, though ‘I will kick football and everything it brought into my life out on the kerb’ the vuvuzela, I’ll keep…

Friday, May 21, 2010

“Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Will Never Hurt Me”

Who could’ve known that one Facebook group, started by a bunch of college students in the US could cause such a furore, but that is exactly what happened when the group, ‘Draw Mohammed Day,’ was opened. Many have pointed to the initial aim behind ‘Draw Mohammed Day;’ a reaction to the intimadatory reaction (I know, ridiculous isn’t it) of certain groups to South Parks plan to depict the Prophet Muhammed in an episode (the episode was ultimately censored). I concede and agree that the motivation behind the original idea was wrong. To group everyday Muslims, our friends and neighbours, with the extremist fringe elements is patently wrong and has a displeasing odour of Islamophobia to it. However, as most things that go viral on the internet, the original idea was altered if not ultimately lost. In fact, in the vociferous debate that raged on Twitter this morning (which led me to write this post), I only saw one person arguing the same point that the originators of “Draw Mohammed Day” were making. For most, this became a question on Freedom of Speech, censorship, be it self-censorship or censorship by others. Ultimately, the question many debated was, what, if any limits, should be placed on freedom of expression.

Funny, it’s very rare, if ever that you’ll meet a single person who is a believer in democracy who’ll happily say, ‘oh freedom of expression, I only sorta kinda believe in it.’ Yet you talk to many people, many of whom would profess to be ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ and you take just one swipe at their support for it, and that is exactly what you’ll find, a wishy-washy half-arsed support for a cornerstone of democracy. From me, those are rather harsh words.

However as much as these views irk me I certainly understand them, mainly for the reason that I used to hold the very same opinion. The primary reasoning behind these views (particularly in the spectre of the “Draw Mohammed Day”) is why should we offend? Why should we not respect the views, opinions and sensibilities of others, let us live and let live. Those seem like very reasonable arguments, until you take them to their very possible conclusions. For the question must be asked, where do we draw the line? If we choose to or legislate against the drawing of the Prophet Muhammed, because it offends Muslims, perhaps the Catholics should call for commentary on the Pope or the numerous Roman-Catholic Church policies to be stopped because it offends their sensibilities.

But let’s bring this closer to home. Certain members of the ANC have called for there to be laws protecting the integrity of the President/Presidency (the two are one in the same for them) or some such malarkey. Well some of the comments directed at Jacob Zuma have been little more than nasty insults directed at him, a recent one that comes to mind is a comment that equated him to a ‘porn-star’ or of course the classic piece of gutter-journalism on Jacob Zuma, that Daily Mail piece. These comments are offensive not just to Zuma, but arguably many other South Africans who believe a man of his stature ought to afforded a certain modicum of respect. If these comments are offensive to so many, drawing from the original argument ought they not to be stopped? One would? I’d say yes. Sure, they may not be expressed in the most eloquent of manners but political views they still are, and if those offensive views are suppressed, why not those of Ferial Haffajee, Mondli Makhanya, Justice Malala, yours or mine.

Ultimately, the reason I support “Draw Mohammed Day” is not because I want to ‘teach those Muslims a lesson or two,’ but rather because to be against it, for me, would be taking a first step down a very slippery slope. I fear where such bans would lead us to, a state where there would be no debate, no discussion, no dissention. Why? Because we all decided that being offensive was wrong and should be stopped. Yes ‘Draw Mohammed Day,’ is offensive, but as far as I’m concerned, offend away. Offend me as much as you want, I will object to it to you, but I will never cry to the state to make you stop.

To quote comedian Steve Hughes: “When did sticks and stones stop being relevant? Isn’t that what you teach children for gods sakes? You’re offended? You’re an adult, grow up deal with it!”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

E-Mail To Malawi's High Commission

It is with great sadness and regret that I note the conviction of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza by magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa for merely being in love.

A few years ago I went on holiday to Malawi and it was a wonderful few weeks I spent there. I have always spoken highly of the warmth and love of your people and your country. But after this, I can no longer do that.

Your constitution, in much the same way that South Africa's does, expressly prohibits discrimination, yet your leaders have yet to speak up against this ruling or speak to your people on homophobia. This silence can only be seen as a tacit agreement with this odious view.

These laws being applied are a horrendous hangover from our colonial days, and as a fellow African, I can only hang my head in shame as further invective and vitriol is hurled at our continent and us as a people for being "backwards" for what can one say to that when our attitudes show just that.

Mvelase Peppetta

Friday, April 30, 2010

The 3rd & Final Leaders Debate: My Take

Last night saw the 3rd and final debate in the run-up to the British polls last night between the top 3 party’s leaders, Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrats, David Cameron of the Conservative Party and embattled incumbent, Gordon Brown for Labour. The general topic was the economy and much to my surprise I have to say I found it to be a rather entertaining and stimulating exchange.

I really had no idea what to expect when the debate started, sure I had read the articles on the first two debates which generally had found Clegg to have bested Brown and Cameron in this form of electioneering thus accounting for the reported upswing in Lib-Dem’s in recent polls. The only knowledge and experience I’d had regarding debates was (as most people have) the American model. Whilst this generally followed the ‘town-hall debate’ format of American debates, with questions being taken from the audience, where the British departed from their American counterparts was in the manner in which questions were answered. Whilst in the American debates this format is generally marked with seemingly disingenuous, ‘I feel your pain,’ plaintive answers lightly skirting over the actual issues, at least two of the debaters, Brown & Cameron took the opportunity to actually go into the nuts and bolts of their respective policies. Clegg, however, was patently out of sorts, displaying his and his party’s naivety and unpreparedness to govern.

The looming spectre of “BigotGate,” which had occurred just the day before, was, I will admit, one of the main reasons I chose to watch after ignoring the first two debates. However, any expectations for a full on attack by either Clegg or Cameron were thwarted with Clegg and Cameron choosing to take the higher ground on what essentially was a non-issue. In fact, the only blatant reference to the gaffe came from Brown himself who in his opening statement said, “There’s a lot to this job (the Prime Ministership) and as you saw yesterday I don’t get all of it right,” which I felt brought a sense of much-needed finality to the issue in an appropriately apologetic tone before swiftly moving along.

Nick Clegg, whilst he in my opinion failed in the debate, the one message which he was able to successfully put across, was how the blame for the muck and mire that the United Kingdom found itself in today could be squarely placed at the feet of both Labour & Tory, and as far as I saw, there was no response to that claim from either Cameron or Brown. Despite the fact that his main message was put across successfully, Clegg took quite a battering from both Cameron & Brown who took this opportunity to show the Lib Dem manifesto for what it is, a collection of unfeasible idealism. He was particularly hammered on Lib Dems’ call for an amnesty for illegal immigrants that had been in Britain for over ten years, with Cameron & Brown coming extremely close to outright ridiculing the proposal. Personally of all the zany policies, that Clegg put forward, the most nonsensical was his housing policy. Exactly how he expects to compel private owners and builders of blocks apartment blocks to start building family sized apartments instead of the studio apartments with the market has a demand for, I don’t know. The one positive in his housing policy which he didn’t speak on too much, choosing to instead focus on the previously mentioned malarkey was his call, which he admitted was unpopular, for more council housing. Essentially with Clegg, form for him was his strong point, he channeled the best of US political debate style, appeals to emotion and broad (read vague) statements when it came to actual policy.

Cameron was the one candidate I was probably most interested to hear. Reason being, of the three candidates and parties, his was the one I had paid the least attention to. My reasoning for not bothering to listen or read up on the Tory manifesto was supported right from the moment he answered his first question. Despite all the promises of a ‘new Conservative Party,’ he espoused the exact same liberal-economic policies that Conservatives in the UK (and their Republican counterparts in the United States) have been selling since at least the eras of Thatcher & Reagan. “Smaller government is the way to go, government has to cut the deficit as government cannot stimulate the economy etc.” In these claims one could immediately see, that there was no new Conservative Party, a point which Brown repeatedly hammered, though how effective he was in relaying that message, I’m not too sure. A rather humorous moment for me with Cameron was his blatant attempt to capture some of that Obama-magic. His policy (and Brown’s it would seem) regarding financial regulation mirrors that of President Obama’s and after explaining his policy, in case you had missed that it was a near mirror of Obama’s Cameron stated, “we agree with President Obama’s plan…”

Gordon Brown explained his party’s policies extremely well, being able to respond to the critiques and attacks of Cameron & Clegg. However, this is where the problem with Brown comes in. Unlike Cameron & Clegg, who were very good at their delivery and thus had a number of easily remembered moments with Brown, there are no such moments. There are only two quasi-exceptions to this. His opening statement which is only memorable as being the only mention of BigotGate and when I felt he scored points not through anything he said, but because he stood back and allowed Cameron & Clegg to bicker between themselves when they were answering the immigration question.

Ultimately, I am a believer in substance over form and that is why I felt that this debate went to Brown, followed by Cameron then Clegg trailing a very distant third. However, the main poll that was being circulated both on television and on Twitter after the debate, YouGov’s poll, gave the win to Cameron by 41%, followed by Clegg with 32% and Brown trailing far behind with 25%. What to make of these numbers, I truly don’t know. What to expect on election-day, again I don’t know.

However, many seem to be returning to the belief that we can expect Cameron to be Prime Minister either through aligning with Lib-Dem as Brown charged or one or some of the smaller fringe parties. My take on this possible scenario is this. Clegg is an idealist, but at the end of the day he is a liberal idealist and though he may now eschew Labour for ‘betraying’ liberal ideals as one analysis prior to the debate argued, I cannot see, how the Lib-Dems would be able to explain to their electorate, that they chose to align with the ultimate enemy, Conservative A scenario I could see playing it is a Clegg Prime-Ministership. What would occur is Brown would resign after Labour placed 3rd position in the election and the Labour leadership would go to Clegg proposing a Lib-Dem led coalition. This would scupper any chances of a Conservative led coalition government (made up of the smaller parties). Lib Dems if they failed to do this, would ultimately have to answer to their extremely liberal base as to why they failed to stop a Conservative government.

Ultimately though, I don’t have a crystal ball to look into because despite what the analysts say, having a politics degree doesn’t mean you can tell what’s going to happen. The only thing I can say for a certainty is this. Keep your eyes glued to the UK, exciting times are ahead and anything could happen.

Colour Me Unpatriotic

We as a people generally agree, Friday’s rock. Complain about Friday, never! Well that is until you read this. Friday in South Africa has now come to be known as “Football Friday.” Anyone who knows me will tell you that it’s quite obvious why this wouldn’t work for me, my aversion to football is well known. The world’s obsession with that sport, I will never get; I mean really, why should football… Wait, I’m getting sidetracked, back to “Football Friday.” On “Football Friday” (yes I will be placing it in inverted commas for this entire blog, that’s how much I dislike it) South Africans are extolled by politicians, celebrities and your average man on the street, to show their patriotism and wear the Bafana Bafana football jersey. Prior to Bafana Bafana’s win against Jamaica I would’ve put in a lovely little joke on supporting a losing team, but can’t do that anymore. Spoilsports.

The first issue I had when this whole “Football Friday” craziness started was how ugly football jerseys are. When I say ‘ugly,’ I’m not necessarily referring to their actual design, I mean, yes they do tend to fall to the, how can one put this kindly, garish side but if pushed I could forgive that. However, to quote the legendary Tim Gunn, “silhouette, proportion & fit are our friends and they will serve us well.” Citizens of South Africa, lovers of football, I’m sorry to inform you of this, but the football jersey does not fulfil any of these criteria. Don’t believe me, let’s take Tim’s sage words and break it down.

Silhouette: Now, I can’t presume to speak for anyone besides myself but I generally have an aversion to having the top half of my body look like a brick and that, my wayward countrymen is what you look like in your oh so yellow garb (yes yellow, don’t tell me it’s gold, because it’s not and that’s a fact). I may not have the world’s greatest physique but I’ve found that with the right clothes, I can look like I do, for just long enough to get them into bed, and after all that is what we all want at the end of the day isn’t it? And ladies, you all have such lovely lady lumps, in the right clothes, your shape, even I, gay as I am, am distracted by them. So on behalf of my breeder brothers; stop hiding them!

Proportion: With proportion, this again ties in with the silhouette element. With your top half looking like an ugly squat brick because you’ve decided to dress in what generally amounts to a square of fabric, what have you got left, the rest of your appendages awkwardly sticking out your now square torso. You end up looking like, and here I’ve laboured for a while trying to find the perfect simile but I can’t. You see the resulting image of your legs, head and arms sticking out of your square is so objectionable that not even I, with my near infinite well of sarcastic put-downs can come up with an appropriate one.

Fit: Now unless you have the physique of either of these two gentleman, I would imagine that your football shirt doesn’t look like that when you’re wearing it (yes technically only one has a jersey which is barely shown, but let's forget that for a while, just look and enjoy, then read on). This I’d have to say though is mainly not your fault. I’ve never looked at the sizing of these shirts (no way my hands are going to touch that) but it seems to me that these shirts start at a large (or a medium if you’re lucky enough to find the few that exist) and go upwards. The rest of the week you’re more than capable of wearing clothing that fits correctly, why, please explain to me why, in the name of this ridiculous craze, do you throw away all common-sense?

“Could it get any worse,” those are words I wish I had never uttered. When “Football Friday” came out, it was just the jerseys but like a fool I uttered those words and Murphy’s Law was fulfilled, because what happened? It got worse.

Enter stage left, The Diski Dance.

Now I like to think that I am pretty efficient with words, but trying to describe the loathsomeness that is the Diski Dance in words is the literary equivalent of a Herculean effort. In what can only be seen as a moment of prolonged insanity, Travel24 writer, Simon Williamson, a generally pretty cool guy extolled us to do the Diski in the name of patriotic pride.

There is one primary reason why you will never see me do the Diski and stems from a long held belief. In my youth, I lived through a particular period of time when the world was gripped by a lovely little ditty known as “The Macarena.” Now, not only was it a lovely song for 9yr old me to mumble along to (it was Spanish, a language I’m not too proficient in); no, as many of us will remember but pretend to forget, there was that a dance that went along, and boy could I Macarena. I Macarena-ed everywhere, school, at home, in shops, in the shower, wherever that song was played (even the Xhosa version, yes you read right, a Xhosa version) I Macarena-ed my little ass off. In fact my grandfather used to expect me to Macarena for him before any visit to him was done, and I Macarena-ed with pride to my Granddad’s mirth.

What has that got to do with the Diski Dance? Well the Diski & the Macarena are one in the same. They are offshoots of the family of dances that at the time seem like a great idea and fun to do, but you will rue the day someone pulls out those videos. A recent example that I wisely steered clear of was “Asereje” more commonly referred to as the Ketchup song. Whilst, these examples were songs, and the Diski is a dance, with no particular song to my knowledge, the underlying idea, self-embarrassment, accompanying the dances is one in the same.

Whilst tweeting about my aversion to the Diski Dance, a fellow tweeter, who’s in high school, Bernd Fischer, told me a story that has to rate right up there in high school nightmares. Apparently at his school, where I’m certain a cabal of sadists make up the administration, at the 100 days till the World Cup point, his entire school was called into the hall and instructed in the intricacies of the Diski Dance and then ordered to Diski. Now as per my recollection, high school was a time of tortured awkwardness and nervousness at embarrassing oneself as is. Add to that the thought of doing the Diski Dance, in broad-daylight, amongst your fellow students, I immediately started hyperventilating and required the restorative powers of a stiff gin & tonic.

So people in your oh so yellow squares of fabric you think of as shirts jigging away like you’re all experiencing a mass seizure I implore you, if not for me and those of us you visually molest every Friday, then for yourselves, remember, this is the World Cup. The world’s media will have its eyes trained on South Africa, those visuals of you in that ‘shirt,’ jerking away, will last forever. Some time in the future, those pictures and video of you in that wannabe-gold monstrosity will surface and you will rue the day you disregarded this warning. If that still then doesn’t dissuade you from this madness, then think of Bernd & his helpless schoolmates, forced to partake, against their will in this insanity.

Stop I plead!
Stop, if not for me, if not for you!
Stop for the children!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

For One Thing, This Fortunate Gay Man Has Had Enough

“You seem much cooler than those whores inside!” that’s what this nice looking gal slurred to my friends and me as we sat outside one of those dodgy little bars that you (well, I) find yourself at after everything else has closed but the night won’t end. I slurred right back, “Grab a seat,” how could I not after an opening line like that? As her and her boyfriend sat, more traditional greetings were given, names were exchanged and in that way the slightly inebriated will, she jumped right to the question that the sober normally dance around and asked, “you gay?” “Yes,” I replied and I thought that would be the end of it. But sadly it wasn’t because right next, she asked something that caused me to severely regret having invited her to join us. Reason being this girl, in one statement, proved to be a particular type of person fast rising up my (long) list of types I don’t like, the fagless, ‘fag-hag.’

So how do I know that this girl was a ‘fagless fag-fag?’ Simple, if the glow that lit up her face when I told I was gay wasn’t enough of a give-away, her insistence that we go to dancing at Bronx followed by her little-girl-who’d-just-lost-her-kitten look as she complained she had no gay friends were more than enough for me to mentally file her in that group.

In my opinion, the blame for the rise of these single girls out there searching for their ‘gay’ can be placed firmly at the door of that cultural watershed, Will & Grace. Since that show, this coupling between men and women has somehow become the biggest thing, making Romeo & Juliet a very distant. In fact, straight women no longer pine away for Romeo to recite sonnets to them from under their balcony’s, they now sit around and pine for a man to watch Project Runway with, take them to gay bars, and most importantly it would seem, give invaluable style advice. Something as a fortunate gay man, I am finally going to put my foot down about and say, ‘enough is enough.’

Now I know, it’s all great and good, Will & Grace broke barriers, opened up the representation of gay men in popular culture. With no Will & Grace there’d be no Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood (though technically he’s ‘omnisexual’), no Scotty & Kevin of Brothers & Sisters or many of the other diverse representations of gay men that we can see across popular culture now. All of which is important for the advancement of gay rights and all that other good ‘human & civil rights stuff.’ But, even despite this, I just can’t keep it to myself any longer, at times I can’t help but wish a pox upon the day Will & Grace was put on air!

I long for a time when a single straight woman didn’t see me as a prospective shopping partner, as someone who’ll spoon ice-cream or pour wine down your throat as we bitch to each other about why he was such a fucking asshole for leaving you for that fat cow whom we will now refer to as ‘the big blonde one.’ And yes, I can look at your boobs and judge them with none of that pesky ‘male gaze’ stuff, and unlike your girlfriends, you won’t have to worry that I’m lying to you, because I’m jealous that yours are bigger than mine or smaller. But most importantly, I’ll know if he’s gay or not (most of the time).

I suppose it would only be correct at this point to admit that I am a sort of Will to not one, or two but rather three sort of Graces, Lee, Jane & Aithne or BFF’s 1, 2 & 3 as my Twitter people may know them as. What can I say, as a modern African man, I see no reason why I can’t have three even though this is a slight stretching of the tradition of polygamy. But lets not be a stickler for details. Despite my friendship with these three totally amazing ladies, I see no reason as to why this fact has to make so many straight woman think that I, am a prospective best friend. Some might say that I’m exaggerating a bit, but I kid you not, not once but twice have I been invited to go lingerie shopping with them by women I barely know, and that’s just the most extreme of examples.

Now you fag-less hag, I know, gay men are meant to be all sorts of fierce and fabulous. I could lie and say we’re not, but not even you would fall for that, many can be and are. But like all people we each have our own foibles, I for instance, as Aithne & Jane would attest to am a very crap best friend at times. I have and will continue to (sorry buds I can’t help it) forget the various details of this or that ex-boyfriend, or that guy from the one time who said or did this or that. You see the problem is, when I received my “Being Gay For Dummies” package, I skipped over the friendship part and went straight to the sex bit because in all honesty that seemed far more interesting.

So word of advice ladies. Just because that guy you’ve just met is gay, don’t take for granted that you and he will be bestest best friends forever. For all you know, he may just be as loutish as that boyfriend of yours, choosing to spend Sundays shouting at the TV screen as cars go round and round a track for hours on end or watch men chasing after balls (not like that) and not in the slightest bit interested in hearing about your issues or ‘going dancing’ with you. So please give him a break, don’t latch onto him like that. We are men after all, and desperation is as much of a turn-off to us, as our breeder brethren.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bastard, Don’t Touch Me On My Studio: An Open Letter To South African Media

One incorrect preposition and an ZA internet meme was born. South Africans were delighted and entertained by arguably the funniest moment in South African politics since Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene broke that chair. In a filming of eNews’ African Current Affairs programme, Africa360, Andre Visagie, Afrikaner Weerstandbeweging (AWB) Secretary General, in a fit of anger, simultaneously seemed to threaten political analyst, Lebogang Pheko and started storming out of the studio. This resulted in a rather funny, standoff between Visagie, his bodyguard, Etv staff & the true ‘star’ of this story, Chris Maroleng, who uttered the phrase which (at least for now) is the phrase de jour, 'don't touch me on my studio,’ and various variations of that. However, the message was clear, the man was not to be touched to be touched on his studio. (see the video here) Now the jokes on this have gone on & on, my favourites alluding to the vaguely sexual nature of ‘don’t touch me on my studio.’ Forgive me, I have a gutter mind.

As this is a blog on South African politics would it truly be complete without a Juju mention? I think not, so here is the Juju aspect. Today, in yet another press conference, our dear ANCYL President saw fit to refer to BBC journalist Jonah Fisher as a ‘bastard,’ ‘agent,’ & ‘little boy’ amongst other things (full tirade, word for word can be found here). In all of that, Julius then attempted to have him forcibly thrown out of the press conference. Why you ask, because Mr Fisher had the nerve to make mention of the fact that Julius himself lives in Sandton after Julius launched into one of his patented tirades, this time against Zimbabwe’s MDC referring to them as a “popcorn” party who spoke “from air-conditioned offices in Sandton.”

However, there is a slightly more serious aspect to this story. Has the South African political landscape, truly fallen to these depths or perhaps is the media focusing on certain aspects of South African politics a little too much?

We’ve been grappling with the Julius question for a long time now. So much debate has been waged in blogs, Twitter, and newspapers columns on whether Malema is as a monster that the media has created and whether the time has come for South African media to ignore Malema. And whilst there are pertinent arguments on both sides of that particular debate, I’d have to agree with the majority of South African media here, we can’t ignore Malema. He is a leader within the ANC, which is South Africa’s ruling party and will continue to be so for many more years and the prospect of him leading the ANC, as terrifying as it is, may not be that far-fetched.

That’s Julius though, but the AWB, really? In 2010, a group that by all measures is practically defunct (except their own unreleased member numbers, which they claim, grow by the thousands daily) is now getting primetime television spots and making headlines? Ever since Eugene Terre’Blanche was killed the AWB has been everywhere. I understand to get the inside story on the death of Terre’Blanche, they are the people to speak to. However, what has really irritated me is that the media has allowed the AWB now, to speak on other issues. I’m sure a freak show is always good for ratings and papers sold, but the media also has a responsibility. They may like to hide behind the general argument that, ‘if they (consumers) don’t want to hear it, we won’t report on it,’ and whilst there is an element of truth to that, there is also a slightly fallacious basis to that statement. On numerous occasions, we do see the media, ‘lecturing’ the public, with headlines & stories exhorting our fascination with the frivolities in life and directing our attention back to ‘important news.’

Let me be clear, I’m not calling for a black-out on the reporting on the views of Right-Wing Afrikaners. However, there are far more responsible and capable voices that could be allowed to represent these views. Whilst I disagree which much of what they say, the Freedom Front Plus gained my respect when they used our legal mechanisms to get “Kill The Boer’ declared as hate speech. Whilst we may complain a lot about our proportional representation system, the beauty of it is that nearly all, regardless of how much of a minority they may be, do get a voice in Parliament. For South Africa to truly become the nation it seeks to be, all need to feel that they are heard and whilst parliament has a role to play in that, so does the media. However, the media cannot allow themselves to be seduced by AR’s and sales figures into choosing the most virulent and angry of voices, the freaks, to be the news. If for no other reason, look where a democratic tradition as old and eminent as that of the United States’ has fallen thanks to the growth of partisan media.

Finally, I’d like to round this off by going back to my Std 1 (Grade 3 for you young ‘uns) teacher Mrs Hibbert (one scary woman). That year, 1995, was when South Africa was in the midst of debating and ratifying out new constitution and we, in Std 1.1. had a little booklet explaining our right as children. What I loved and has always stuck with me from that booklet was that with every right explained, there was a corresponding responsibility expected from us attached to it. So media, freedom of the press is something that no democracy can do without and I will defend vociferously, but remember, with that right, there is a responsibility, to not only ensure that all sides of a story are represented but to also ensure that such representation is done in a responsible manner.

Note: While the Internet meme is "don't touch me on my studio" what was actually said was, "touch me on my studio."