Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Equality 101

Recently I read a few articles that covered the Marriage Equality victory in California, and felt I had to comment on the issue. Marriage is still a bone of serious contention for our community internationally. We here in South Africa still have hate-groups intent on challenging the legality of marriage equality - once they have finished lynching freedom of the press and ripping the guts out of the Constitution, of course.

Reading the comments by the presiding judge in this case was one of those "yes!" air-punching moments for me, in which the airy-fairy bullshit arguments and junk-science of the Religious Right, in use virtually unchanged since the 1970's, was blown clear out of the water by the admission of common sense and reason - which for some strange reason seems to have been made to sit out on the bench until now.

After all, how can you put human rights to a popular vote and call it democracy? How many times do you need to redefine or haggle about the meaning of the word EQUALITY?

"Judge Walker held that the the right to marry for same-sex couples is a fundamental right, the same as for opposite-sex couples. That's revolutionary." It certainly is, especially when the people trying to take away our right to marry make statements about how vital and fundamental a right it is for heterosexuals.

If you remember correctly, right wingers are known for these claims - and logic in this case indicates that if it is so fundamental to heterosexuals, then it is also just as fundamental a right for anyone else - equality, duh.

People 1 - Bigots 0.

"Domestic partnerships do not satisfy the rights of same-sex couples because they were created in order to deny same-sex couples the right to engage in the institution of "marriage," while approximating the benefits of marriage. Domestic partnership is a substitute and inferior institution."

'Approximating' is correct. If it doesn't SAY "marriage" on the wrapper, then IT ISN'T MARRIAGE. In the advertising field they call that false advertising. If it is in any way manner or form partitioned, separated or segregated, then it isn't EQUAL.

Even here in South Africa we do NOT have true marriage equality. While we can use the word - given us, however begrudgingly - even the law which allows us to do so is called the Civil Union Act and does not allow for marriages out of community of property. Bet you didn't know that, did you?

The original Marriage Act was not amended to reflect that equality - and still stands separately, allowing for all the bells and whistles the Civil Union Act doesn't have. That's correct, even though gay people can marry in SA, they do not do so under the same law that governs heterosexual marriage, they do it under a "separate but equal" law. We South Africans all know how well "separate but equal" works, don't we? *wink*

If you like "Civil Union" so much, why don't YOU get one next time you want to tie the knot?

Knowing this, it makes the Civil Union Act and Marriage Act seem noticeably lopsided. While you could compare both to the latest sedan on the market, both are cars, have alloy wheels and shiny paint jobs - but only one has air-con, power-steering and sat-nav.

I've been criticized by trans people for being bothered by the marriage equality issue because some feel that it doesn't affect transpeople at all. Naturally, that is a remarkably stupid and short-sighted argument.

It saddens me that so few trans-people seem to be interested in getting involved in activism and politics. Perhaps they are afraid someone will notice them. Oh well...

You think because you're a transwoman that "gay marriage" doesn't affect you? Really? What if you're a transwoman and you want to marry another woman? Or how about this one - you're a transwoman and you want to marry a man, but legally you're still male and the law in your state or country won't allow you to change your legal status... See? Marriage equality for gay people is good for more than just gay people - it's good for us too. More equality is always a good thing, for everyone. Even if you're straight. You might not need to or want to marry another man - but you could if you wanted to.

As a prime example to show the relevance of marriage equality here in South Africa, a couple married under the heterosexist (that's right, I said heterosexIST) Marriage Act are negatively affected when one partner changes gender. The marriage becomes invalid under this Act. No, I'm serious. This happened to a friend of mine. I was at their second wedding this past weekend, because they had to re-tie the same knot that the government decided had to be undone because they hadn't formulated their laws properly.

Call me pedantic, but this would have been completely unnecessary had they been married under a single Marriage Act that didn't discriminate in the first place?

The government are trying hard to take away democracy. They're trying to deprive you of your right to freedom of access to information and freedom of the press right now - you think they will balk at taking away any semblance to marriage equality?

In fact, I'm reasonably certain the reason the original Marriage Act wasn't altered to reflect equality after the 2005 ruling, was so that the powers-that-be thought they wouldn't have to change it back again after they delete the Civil Union Act in the near future (bearing in mind the government had to be dragged to court to force it to put the law into affect in the first place). But oh well, that is just my opinion.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Are Militant Homosexual Activists An Extinct Species?

Back in the day, opponents of equality and human rights for us Pink folks used to call anyone who dared speak out against them or shoot down their ridiculous arguments "militant homosexual activists". Typically, they used to show their blatant ignorance by calling transgender activists the very same thing as well. But regardless of the details, today I have to wonder where all those "militant activists" have gone?

The Radical Right is still here, attacking our humanity, our right to exist - and I have to ask, where are all those bold voices who used to speak out against them? Why aren't they still here, taking them on and calling them out on their prejudice, hypocrisy and bigotry?

Time passes, sure - and 1993 was almost 20 years ago now, when those right-wing folks opposed dismantling the laws that made gay and trans people into criminals in South Africa, when all the nut-jobs went to Parliament to tell the fledgling democratically-elected "government of national unity" (remember those days?) why treating gay people like human beings would lead to the fall of civilization - and allowing transsexuals to be logged correctly in the population register would "endanger children". Of course, back then there were activists who stood up to them, and took them on - exposing their propaganda and misinformed bigotry - and explained that just because the rest of Africa wants to murder people based on their gender or sexuality, it doesn't mean that South Africa has to follow their example - or bless it with religious fervor.

This was shortly followed by the publication of a nasty little book which sought to turn the Pink Community into the new most-hated and feared social group in the "new" South Africa. This attempt to scapegoat Pink folk brought plentiful support from right-wing fruit loops into the fray. The newly formed African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), neck-deep in the promotion of the book, was there too. And yes, there were some dedicated voices speaking out against them, bringing undeniable facts into the argument in opposition to regurgitated junk-science borrowed from the works of foreign fantasy writers like Paul Cameron and James Dobson.

Just a few years ago the fight for marriage equality brought more nuts out of the woodwork, claiming that gay marriage would threaten or "devalue" straight marriage - and miraculously "increase the divorce rate". Not only have neither of these idiotic "threats" come to fruition, but the statistics seem to have brought to light same-gender relationships that have lasted decades, giving them much needed positive exposure - and blowing clean out of the water the Religious Right fantasy that gay people can't commit to long term, loving, wholesome relationships.

Despite the claims of people like "Dr" Peter Hammond of the "Christian Action Network" and his side-kick Taryn Hodgson - that human rights activists at the time were "militant", I have to point out the painfully obvious to anyone who visits the exercise in paranoia 101 that is the CAN website, reads their articles or press interviews - that at least the Pink Community is not known for advocating the use of firearms to make their point, stock-piling weapons, ammunition or emergency supplies, undergoing para-military training - and of course, home-schooling. But of course, we who speak out against them are the "militant" ones. Go figure.

Time seems to have caught up with the CAN, it has fallen all but silent of late - and not much has been seen or heard of Hammond, at least since that messy business that earned him the nick-name of "the Paintball Pastor" in the press, when a trick-or-treating child was shot in the face at close range with a paintball gun in mysterious circumstances on Halloween a few years ago. His younger ally Erroll Naidoo, who used to speak for the CAN, in particular at homophobic events, now leads the fight against human rights through his own foreign-backed group, the "Family Policy Institute", located close to Parliament. He spends a lot of time these days in meetings with government officials, such as the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, plotting new ways to extend Religious Right control over what goes on in government, the media and society.

What I find disconcerting is that he isn't just bragging when he speaks of the Religious Right's success in influencing what appears to be a conservative and sympathetic government - we can see it in the new laws being tabled in Parliament. We see it when Ministers of Art & Culture storm out of tasteful public arts exhibitions, calling them "immoral" and "contrary to nation-building". We see it when the government starts deciding what people should see and what they shouldn't - and what they should think or feel, or believe - and what not.

These days I see Pink Community events in many places, hear about Pride in various centers, read about parties and jols everywhere. There is an impression that everything is just fine, but is it? Black gays and lesbians and trans people are still raped and murdered almost with impunity simply for existing. I still see people afraid to be themselves in public places, despite their freedom and equality being guaranteed in the laws of this country. I still hear of people too afraid to come out to their parents and co-workers, I still read about people being raped, murdered or assaulted for being honest and open and making use of the Constitution that promises protection and equality - the same Constitution which various elements - some of them influencing and infiltrating government - wish to replace with their holy book of choice. Why do I still smell the scent of fear in our community, but hear no strong voices speaking out to set things right? What happened to those "militant homosexual activists" of the past? Why have so many of them disappeared and fallen silent? More importantly, why has no-one stepped up to take their places?

Do you think if there were more vocal intersex gender activists on the scene, the athletics authorities in this country would have dared to dally so long with Caster Semenya's test results, or given her such a rough ride? Do you think they would have got away with it so cleanly?

Why is there a deafening silence, a near-absence of voices from within the community to speak out in opposition when things that make Pastor Naidoo smile come to fruition? Where are all the "militant homosexual activists"? Where are they?

Perhaps, as a colleague of mine in human rights advocacy has sarcastically remarked, they are "too busy washing penguins" to notice they are needed.

We need more people who care about staying alive and standing up to people who would like nothing better for us to disappear off the face of the Earth, and resisting people who would like a shot at making it happen.

We need more "militant" gay and trans activists.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Home Truths

I think everyone should experience what its like to lose their rights, even just for an hour or two, so they know how it hurts when you think how it might be to go through life being made to feel like a second-class citizen - a pariah, based solely on something you ARE, something you can't change or help being - something those in power see as wrong or undesirable, particularly for no good reason other than they feel like it, or their old favorite excuse - "cos we say so".

I imagine it would do people like Errol Naidoo, the South African Deputy Minister of Home Affairs (Gigaba), The Minister of Arts and Culture (Lulu Xingwana), Pastor "God-Squad" Ray McCauley and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (to say nothing of our own Kiddie Amin) a world of good. Dr. James Dobson too - even though he has been put out to pasture recently, he has left a legacy of hatred and prejudice (and a trail of misguided parents a mile wide) that can be called his hallmark - the so-called "Culture War" we still feel the effects of today.

Of course, some of these personalities would argue that they have already been dispossessed and hard done by, and know the pain of prejudice and injustice and unfair discrimination quite intimately. Despite this, they still persist in punishing and judging others for their own inborn and immutable characteristics (especially innocents who weren't even around to have done them any harm) for things long past and supposedly behind us as a society. Clearly they learned little from those horrid experiences.

Perhaps, rather than trying to pass new laws to gag the free press in South Africa and wasting tax-payers money on big ruling-party rallies, our government should think about instituting mandatory classes in what it's like to be a persecuted minority for politicians, law makers and government ministers instead.

Of course, this lesson might work best on children - these folks are all adults now (at least, legally) and they are jaded and somewhat cynical. Mostly they would have a very narrow (dare I say black and white) view of the world. And these sort of people always find ways to justify, excuse or explain away their feelings or actions, and why if people are marginalized, unhappy or persecuted, then it is all their own fault and they deserve it.

It's a powerful and simple fact that the tears other people cry may be explained away - but your own will choke you up.

Imagine a civics class at school, demonstrating these points on racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and xenophobia (which includes all of the above, really). Imagine a little white kid being shown in a scenario that she can't sit with her black friends because of her race? Or a boy being made to feel the sting of rejection that comes when he loses that big promotion to a woman because of his gender? Or a left-handed kid being made to sit in the corner because he isn't right-handed, while all the left-handed kids laugh at him? Or a blond child with blue eyes being singled out as a "Nazi" simply because of her physical characteristics? How about talking down to and treating a paraplegic child as if they have a mental disability - or a teacher telling them she doesn't care that there are 20 steps at the front entrance of the school and no ramp - or how he gets in to class? Imagine a school principal announcing on the intercom that all Christian children better leave because he won't tolerate them in 'his' school? Or telling a straight teen that he can't hold his girlfriend's hand like the other children can - because the government, religion and society see heterosexuality as "wrong" and "evil" and they will be punished for it?

Imagine judging peoples worthiness as human beings, their patriotism, their "morality", their fitness to be included in society or under equal protection of the common law - by the color of their skin, their language, their religious persuasions, their gender, their physical characteristics or ability, or the gender of the person they form relationships with? Come on, man - can't you see how f***ed up that is? That's not "patriotism" or "morality" or "Christianity" - it's eugenics. And whether or not you agree with me, eugenics is about superiority, delusions of grandeur and of one group of pots feeling fit to judge another set of kettles for how black, chipped or dented they are. Eugenics is the root of genocide.

Imagine how it must be to be these people - that your sense of self-worth is so low that you need to hurt other people, or revel in your own personal power to make them cry (even if you don't get to see them shed their tears) in order to feel better about yourself? Imagine that the tears of another, and taking away their dignity and humanity, are the price for your self-esteem? Are these people really so small?

See? Bigotry and prejudice and inequality make a whole different kind of non-sense when you think about how it would affect YOU, doesn't it?

I'll bet interfering in other people's lives, and deciding on who should be treated differently to themselves - and how, wouldn't seem quite so "heroic", "patriotic" and "Christian" - or even "justifiable" anymore, would it?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ignorance As A World-view

South Africa is a beautiful country with all sorts of worthwhile natural resources and stunning, sweeping vistas and other interesting stuff that usually makes it onto the back cover of some tourism magazine you might flip through while sitting on the bog - or, as introductions on websites or Facebook groups for conservative political parties which try to sound interesting and aspire to make other people's business, theirs.

Unlike those people, who seem overly concerned about whether other people's kids are taught facts about evolution in schools instead of fantasy and philosophy involving their invisible friends - I don't care to write about how pretty the landscape is, or whether or not the skyline looks like sunset after a bomb went off.

Unlike people who get their knickers in a knot over whether sex education includes "safer sex" instead of "abstinence only" practices (or non-practices, as the case may be) or educates the gay and trans kids as well, without making anyone out to be some kind of threat to religion, the state or "the family" - I really couldn't give a toss what they believe.

Unlike people who define love and marriage by their reproductive potential alone, and how many more children they can bring into the world (because we know the world needs more children, unless they happen to be different) - I certainly don't care about what kind of hardware people who love each other enough to tie the knot are packing down below - or what Jan and Janine Conservative do in the privacy of their own relationships.

For one thing, I think it would be overly boring - and I could guess at what it is they do - what they seem to be so good at - obsessing about us, the diverse population of South Africa - the people who don't follow their neatly laid down little rules, who don't pander to their fastidious little "world-view" that everyone should be like them, well - because they are.

Of course, we know how these parties operate in these patriotic little messages, don't we? First, they proclaim their wonderment at the world around them and their awe at how their God created everything that makes South Africa so wonderful to live in - and then they swiftly begin to point out the faults they find with this very creation - namely us gay folk who love each other just to defy them and to get our hands on "their children", and us trans folk who put on "gender-inappropriate" clothing just to spite them and to make them feel uncomfortable and vulnerable while using public restrooms.

After all, you never know when the gent standing at the trough beside you might happen to glance down at your tool, or doesn't actually have one of his own - yet. And we all know how transgender people flock to use the ladies room to prey on helpless "real" women, and if we're really lucky, children as well.

Yes, South Africa is an incredible country all right. Aside from the fact that some people living here will actually believe the false bullshit stereotypes above, some people seem all to eager to give up on their lives here - in fact, many already have. They've packed it in and left for greener pastures in other lands, under other skies. On the other hand, many are starting to realize that they can't do that.

Whether because of insufficient resources or whatever reasons, they find themselves stuck here and have resigned themselves to whatever comes next. Others again, like me, don't want to leave. And why should I? This is my home too - and I have as much right to live here, with as much equality and civil and human rights as anyone else. I'm not giving up without a fight. And believe me, it has sweet stuff-all to do with sweeping vistas and the abundant ecology or which religion some claim this country "belongs" to.

"This is my land - what kind of man would I be if I did not try to make it better?" - Bayleon, Kingdom of Heaven. There is a lot of good stuff in that movie that will teach you a lot about religion, if you are open to learning it.

Some people even believe that not since 1994 has one single election been free and fair, that it wont be for a long time, and that the only way the ANC will give up power is if they are forcefully removed. "The elections are rigged." is their point of view, so why bother voting?

That's an interesting rumor - in my opinion, one which is spread to make people disinterested in voting. Would the opposition parties who so vocally exposed the corruption in the arms deal and various other scandals that rocked the ruling party in the last 20 years or so, sit idly by and say nothing at all if they caught even a hint of unfair practice and election rigging? I think not. The whole world would know about it in an instant.

Some even feel that politics is a dirty business and use that as an excuse to not be involved. They even think that politics should be abolished and replaced by "some other system" that would work better and take all the effort out of running a country fairly and squarely. Uhuh. I hear you.

Of course, that has been tried in times past, it's not a new idea. Back in the old days, when people were too lazy to take care of their own affairs and didn't want to think for themselves or to shoulder the burden of their own responsibility, there were governments that did exactly that for them. It was called absolute monarchy - and fascism.

Correct me if I'm wrong - but didn't we just ditch one of those governments back in 1994?

That's right, fascist governments do all the thinking for you, like the "good ol' days" under the Apartheid regime. And so for that matter, do absolute monarchies - in fact, so does any government where the people have handed over their responsibilities to some enterprising individual to run for them, and to do with as they wish, and are then too afraid to stand up against.

To "abolish politics" means to abolish democracy - which means a totalitarian state. There is no way to make that work in the best interests of the people - take away elections and politics and you take away the accountability of politicians and government to the people. Take away the blood, sweat and tears that define keeping a democracy democratic and in the hands of the people, and you take away the significance of democracy and risk losing it.

Democracy is government by the people, and for the people. Without the responsibility weighing on the people, and without the involvement of the people - all you have left is GOVERNMENT.

Government is supposed to be the embodiment of the will of the people, and not something feared by the people and which oppresses and controls them. No matter which way you look at it, even if it doesn't always run smoothly, democracy is the best compromise between fascist dictatorships, absolute monarchies and total anarchy - and has been ever since there have been governments.

Many Pink folks I know are disinterested because they feel politics excludes them. Wrong. There are many political parties who specifically target us and use us as scapegoats for the world's ills - so we don't need to feel left out at all *wink*. Of course, if they took the trouble to dig a little, they would see that there are literally one or two political parties who are in full support of the Pink Community, and not just in terms of paying lip-service. Some even feature a high number of pink folks among their representatives - and once you know this, and realize it, you begin to see just how thin and absurd that continued excuse for us to remain on the outside, looking in gets.

Not knowing about politics (and democracy) and how it works, and not wanting to be involved because it's a "dirty business" is exactly what keeps people like JZ (and Mugabe) in power. If there are structures available to us to get involved and to protect our democracy and our civil rights, we should be making us of them - not making excuses about why not.

So many of the people I know, pink or straight, are apathetic and disinterested in politics. And the sad thing is that if they are not interested in what happens in politics, then they really aren't interested in protecting their own freedoms and rights. Do they think the clauses in the Constitution that protect our civil rights got there as if by magic, without any blood, sweat or tears? Do they think for one moment that they will just stay there without the same level of commitment from our community?

Sitting on the sidelines and pointing out the missed spots isn't going to help anyone left out in the cold much. You can be excused for not knowing how it works - but you can't be excused choosing to stay ignorant. Being interested doesn't require a lifetime commitment of service in politics, or joining a political group - it just takes being interested in current affairs, knowing how it affects your rights, and when it comes to it, exercising your right to vote, to petition or assembly or demonstration.

Yes, politics is a dirty business - why? Because it is a constant battle to secure and guard human rights, freedom, equality and democracy, against people who don't like to play nice - the mad, the vicious and the vile. Is it not worthwhile?

The solution to this ignorance and apathy is to read the manual, roll up our sleeves, pick up a shovel and start cleaning it up ourselves.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

X Spots The Mark

On Saturday I was at a canvassing table in my voting district, asking people to sign a petition against the governments proposed new legislation which will gag the media. Surprisingly, a broad base of people of every language, race and political affiliation, signed the petition and commented freely about how bad this law would be for everyone. This was encouraging, but what still shocked me though, was the number of people who just waved me off - or laughed, as if there was something actually funny in asking people to exercise their democratic right and sign a petition against something which would strip them of their freedom to access information.

"I don't do politics" one smart looking dude told me. "But politics will do you!" I replied, while he and his girlfriend stared at me as though I were from another planet.

Others commented about what a rush their Saturday morning was, that they "didn't have time" and how much more important that rush to buy a loaf of bread or bottle of milk at the store was than securing their democratic freedom to an independent Press. In fact, I wonder if any of them even knew what "freedom of the Press" even means, even after taking pains to translate it for them. Others said they would come back later, or just said "not now" - prompting me to think that they would probably worry about their civil rights AFTER they have lost them, which makes no sense, does it? Yes, laugh about it - politics is "uncool", isn't it? Laugh it up, folks- but will you still be laughing on the other side? I hope we don't have to find out.

And some of them will definitely sit on the side lines, or in front of the idiot box, being fed only good news, as they do in the Arab countries - asking out loud why "somebody" didn't do something. Needless to say, this ignorant, condescending "don't be silly, why should I give a flying fuck about my (or your) civil rights" attitude frustrated me to the nth degree. After all, how dare I bother them to protect their own democratic protections, "what's wrong with me" that I take this move to take away my right to know what's going on in the world around me seriously, and don't want to go through life oblivious to reality? Couldn't I see the lovely pair of blinkers they were wearing? Very cool. No actually, I couldn't - because their heads were stuck so far up their own asses they disappeared from the neck up. Grr.

In most countries today, people are expected to pass a learner and then a driver's license test to operate a vehicle safely on public roads - but any fool over 18 years with an ID document can go and vote - or not - and affect the course of the entire nation in an election - regardless of how much or how little they know about politics, the government, current affairs, or whatever party or officials they are voting for. Now, I'm not suggesting we prevent people from voting - goodness knows, we have little enough of them already - but we should take the trouble to educate voters. Of course, the current government won't share this view, because having masses of ignorant voters who will make their mark wherever they are told to, suits them.

I think that voter education and education on democracy should be introduced into schools as a subject - and so should a system of elections for "class president" as they have in some foreign schools, particularly the US. How can this country - purportedly the shining light of democracy in Darkest Africa, produce competent voters and politicians and future leaders if the constituents (and their children, who I am continually reminded are the future) know nothing at all about the operation of the body politic?

In fact, in such countries they may as well print ballot papers with the "X" already in the desired boxes, which will come in quite handy should anyone happen to conveniently "find" another lost ballot box full of votes for the ruling party on the side of a country road.

Voters should be educated - ignorant voters are people who vote where they are told to vote, and this leads to situations like the catastrophe called Zimbabwe, where people will swallow any old thing Uncle Bob dishes out - and make a cross next to Zanu PF just on the basis of brand loyalty and because he's some kind of revolutionary war hero, who makes entertaining speeches telling Britain and the US to go to hell, and because he says so.

Elections in some countries make me shake my head. Take the Zim elections in 2008 - Bob was beaten fair and square, remember - he was out-voted, but suddenly there was a ruckus and two years later he is still being called "President Robert Mugabe" and making state visits all over the world as if he is in any way legitimate. He and Morgan sit around a table pretending they are working for democracy and the betterment of people's lives, while leaving the civil rights of a good portion of Zim's people out of the country's new constitution - which will be quite worthless and undemocratic in the end if it does not include them.

Very amusing is the demand by a pompous little dictator - a leader who has clung to power for 30 years through all manner of wrong-doing, intimidation and crookery - that the West drop all sanctions, or else. Or else what, dude? The only people who will suffer more if he doesn't step down and let democracy take over - are his own people - and they keep him in power by voting where he tells them - and cheering this sycophant on when he makes his buffoonish speeches, which they swallow wholesale. And THAT is exactly what happens in a country which does not have freedom of the Press.

You see, human rights and the right to equality are debatable and have variable value, depending on what government is in power at any time. And when there is a democratically elected government - and this government turns on the people that voted it into power in an attempt to take away the power that put them there - in effect preventing them from being replaced - and the people do not react negatively to this, then there has to be something wrong somewhere.

Which just proves my point - people don't know the first thing about politics, about the policies and activities of whatever party they supposedly support - or even the others they don't support - or WHY they don't support them. If they did, then there would be no reason to panic. Perhaps the "Protection of Information Bill" really won't affect the people who couldn't be bothered to sign a petition opposing it - I mean, they obviously agree that they don't need to know everything in the news, that they really don't want to know what the government in their employ has been getting up to in their name - or how corrupt they are?

Not being interested is really the same as saying - "sure, take away freedom of the Press - I don't need it."

At this point I have to say that I feel such people are a bunch of apathetic idiots, and they really don't deserve democracy. They make me crazy - it is because of people like them that our country is in such a state at the moment. It isn't the all ANC's fault - hell no, it is the fault of people who should be voting their conscience instead of passing the buck and sticking their heads in the sand like ostriches.

That's right - if you refuse to vote, refuse to be drawn into political duties that come with being a citizen in a democracy - and the government starts to act unilaterally and you don't vote the fuckers out or tell them "NO!" - then it is YOUR fault.

You don't care about your civil rights or freedoms, you don't care about knowing what's going on around you - and the government has noticed this and wants to take away your right to do so, ensuring that they will continue to do as they wish with your blessing of silence. Then you should be happy when they pass the "Protection of Information Bill", because then you won't be expected to do anything but believe all the bullshit they put in the papers and on TV news - and to say "yes" when and where they tell you to.

Think about it - if all those useless excuses for South African citizens who refuse to vote, sitting next to you on the bus, or in the next cubical at the office - those losers - had to actually vote instead of criticizing without participating, what a difference that would make!

If you won't register to vote, or get off their ass to vote - then you ARE STUPID!!!!! It is YOUR fault South Africa has half the problems it has. You might be able to blame the government for half of the problems we have - but the other half is YOUR fault for sitting apathetically on the sidelines and not voting!!!

The government has decided you don't need to know what they are doing in your name, and they have spotted their mark - and it is you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What Is Happening To Our Democracy?

I doodled about the matter surrounding the government's current assault on South Africa's democracy on my white board last night, and found what I'd come up with rather thought provoking, so I thought I would build it into a Powerpoint slide and share it with you.

You see, currently we are facing the brunt of a broad-based attack on the freedom of the press as well as the civil rights of the ordinary citizen - in the form of the Protection of Information Bill, the "Pornography Bill" being pushed by the Dept of Home Affairs - and the newly newsworthy "Employment Services Bill" - all of which would turn democracy on its head and steer our country on a course which could only lead us to disaster.

Feel free to look it over, I think it says more than a 1000 page article could at this point. After all, it basically says what I've been shouting and waving my arms about the past 3 years. Feel free to pass it on and publish it if you will. Just get is out and warn people to get off their apathetic rear ends and take an interest in their own well being.

Both the "Protection of Information" Bill and "Porn Bill" (although I've been led to believe this is still only a three page conceptual document at this stage) could lead to far more invasive laws and practices than those thinking they will be "protecting children" and "sensitive information" may expect. Who knows what some elements would deem necessary to "protect children" or the "security of information"? Wire tapping? How private will your phone calls be under such a law? How about reading people's emails? ISP's would have to install censoring software as used in China to block IP adresses, or to block content - will they be able to read or censor your outgoing emails as well? It's very clear to me that there would be some degree of overlap between these two Bills, justifying the two-way arrow I placed between them, covering a wide scope of things that the increasingly paranoid, power hungry government-slash-ruling party would find interesting.

Of course, there is the matter of what would start happening once these laws are in place. Would we start seeing unreported arrests, brutality and security force involvement as we had under Apartheid? Would we see more of what transpired a few weeks ago when that journalist was abducted by the "Hawks" from a public venue, bundled into a car, taken to another city and held illegally for being in possession of an alleged fraudulent fax which was sent to him?

How about the internet? The internet puts the power in the hands of the people - which is why governments - particularly non-democratically run governments - are waxing hysterical and setting up internet censorship and control laws. A prime example is China, dubbed the Great Firewall, and the recent flurry of activity in Saudi to ban Blackberry phones on supposed claims of "security risks". Even Australia - and now South Africa as well, are trying to introduce laws to restrict freedom of access to information and the internet.

There are loads of activists using the internet as a powerful information tool, including myself, using tools like Facebook, Twitter and others to highlight all sorts of issues - issues that could make governments blush - or develop nervous ticks. There is no doubt in my mind that this crackdown on freedom of information and freedom of speech will soon include us - if it doesn't already.

For example, I am fairly certain that if it wasn't for activists on the internet, using social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter - then Uganda will have already passed their notorious "kill the gays" Bill, and would now be happily killing innocent people "in the name of the Lord".

The reason they are so hysterical is because they are losing the fight for control - you see, the free nature of the web allows whistle-blowers and human rights activists to communicate with the rest of the world, expose any wrong-doing, human rights violations or corruption and make them look bad - and now they are realizing it. "Stonewall2.0" is far more than just a Pink Community concept - it works for any cause, any group. That's why there are so many moves by particularly right wing folks to restrict internet access and media freedoms.

To simplify - what the "Protection of Information Bill" and coupled with it, the "Pornography Bill" will mean if they are in place is this: The government will be able to say to the world at large that "everything is just fine in SA" - and anyone (including journalists, whistle-blowers or private citizens) who tries to dispute them with facts will be committing a crime punishable with 25 years jail. In short, there will be severe restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of expression, as bad - if not worse - than under the Apartheid regime.

Then there is the "Employment Services Bill" - which would replace private employment agencies (or bring them under direct control of a government department) - and also take over complete control of employment-related activities and the job-market. Private companies that have vacancies will no longer be allowed to appoint anyone on their own (not even on a temporary or contract basis), or while using private employment agencies - they would be obliged to deal with a government labor department to appoint anyone. And it would be the government that would decide who to place in that vacancy - and who not - and of course, it will most likely be the government to decide the criteria for filling that post - not the employer.

This is unbelievable. As if the "Protection of Information" and "Pornography" bills aren't bad enough... And all at the same time too. What did I say just before the World Cup? - "Just wait until after the World Cup when all the media attention is off South Africa - and then the paw-paw will hit the fan" - and here it is now.

As if trying to introduce media censorship and control of private communications isn't bad enough - now the SA govt wants to take over the job market and appoint people into private company vacancies as well!

This is the way things work in an oppressive, totalitarian or communist state, where the state has all the power - and will do anything to cling to it - not in a democracy.

What is happening to our democracy? Do we care? Do we care enough to register as voters so we can vote our displeasure with the way things are? Do we care enough to do something to change the way things are? Do we care enough as registered voters to drag ourselves to voting stations come election day to make sure we exercise our democratic right - or do we stay at home and not bother, saying by our inaction and disinterest that we don't need to vote, we don't need to have a say in who governs South Africa, or how they do it - that we don't care - and that we don't want that responsibility anymore?

To those people who think that their votes would make no difference, let me say: Every single vote counts. Every single one. Even if your vote just cancels out an opposing vote, it matters. And if you don't vote, then it counts as two votes against making a difference in this country - the loss of your individual vote, and a vote which could have cancelled out an opposing vote - that one vote that could have made the difference.