Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shades Of 2012

I enjoy history, in fact I often make mention of the proverb "those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it". Faced with certain revelations of late, and a certain amount of introspection, I am loathe to add "that depends on your history". This of course, is not simply because history is written by the victors, but because of the increasingly apparent detail that while we might know some of what has passed before, we don't know it all. There is clearly a significant amount of earlier history that is unknown, lost.

Fortunately it seems that we can still find fragments of it in the deep, dark places of the world. The only question is whether or not we will be open to accepting what our digging into the past brings to light?

As some of you may know I am something of an archeology fan. Recently I became aware of the number of finds in the past decade which are nothing less than earth-shattering in terms of their relevance. In particular I am referring to the number of submerged cities discovered in the oceans off the coastlines of various continents around the world just over the past decade. Surely I must be talking a load of bollocks here, because like you, I am sure I have heard only the bare minimum of these finds? Are they real? Decide for yourself.

Let me list a few for you:

Cuba:

On December 7, 2001 the following finds were reported in the sea off the coast of Cuba - an array of building-like structures on a plateau that forms the bottom of what is thought to be a mud volcano, 650 to 700 metres beneath the surface of the ocean and along what is clearly a geological fault line.

The unusual shapes first appeared on sophisticated side-scan sonar equipment in the summer of 2000, during shipwreck surveys off Cuba's western coast, where hundreds of vessels are believed to have sunk over the centuries. The company that made the discovery is among five foreign firms working with Cuba's government to explore the island's coast for shipwrecks of historical and commercial interest. But the mysterious shapes have become the focus of this crew's exploratory efforts.

The precise age of the underwater site is also unknown, although Cuban archaeologists in 1966 excavated a land-based megalithic structure on the western coast, close to the new underwater discovery, said to date from 4000 BCE. Based on that and other geological information, scientists are speculating that these structures are 6,000 years old. It's not exact, but they're very ancient. The area appears to have been submerged in an earthquake.

If that dating estimate proves accurate, it would mean that an undetermined ancient civilization designed and erected these vast stone structures in the Americas only 500 years after human settlements first became organized in cities and states in Mesopotamia. by comparison, the three oldest pyramids on Egypt's Giza plateau are thought to have been constructed between 2900 and 2200 BCE.

The stones so far recovered from the ocean bottom near Cuba are very polished granite. All of the peninsula of northwest part of Cuba is limestone, and very fractured limestone. So, geologically, these megalithic granite structures are totally foreign to Cuba. It doesn't take much IQ to figure out they didn't get there by themselves, or cut and polish themselves either.

India:

Then there is possibly the biggest find so far - a possible megacity 180 meters under the sea off the coast of India, which so far has delivered artifacts and Human remains dating back to 9500 years old. Some scientists are becoming notorious in archeology circles because the emotions of other scientists are getting the better of them. Why do I say this? Because when facts present themselves, they tend to override or ignore them because "it couldn't possibly be". Because some of these scientists are speculating that the origins of this site may date back as far as 50,000 years or more. But that is just impossible, isn't it - it could never be?

Ok, let's go out on a limb here for a minute. Let's examine the data to see why these claims are being entertained. We have what appears to be an ancient city, covered by silt and mud at the mouth of what could have been a river in some distant epoch. The river no longer exists, but is referred to in ancient Vedic texts predating 3 millennia. Taking their investigation further, the archaeologists used a satellite to locate what is clearly a dry river course, which runs from the ruin to the Himalayan peaks. It has been determined that this river has been dry since the end of the last ice age, 50,000 years ago. Added to that is the the detail in the same reference which relates how this river had several cities on its banks - and to add credence to this tale, several habitation sites were identified using the same satellite imaging techniques. Apparently these are now also under investigation.

At the end of the last ice age, around 50,000 years ago, the ice covering much of the land melted and sea levels rose dramatically, submerging lower coastal areas everywhere. There are other similar sites around the world, Japan, China, Thailand... You can check them all out here

Let's put this into perspective by referring to our current sum of Human knowledge. The earliest known Human civilization on this planet that we have a name and records for is that of Sumer in Mesopotamia, known as the middle East today. 6000 years ago the Sumerians developed culture, writing, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, religion, laws and justice, architecture, science and virtually everything we would associate with the hallmarks of civilization. entire libraries of their records on clay tablets have been found. They are even credited with inventing the wheel, although this might only be because they are the earliest confirmed known civilization we know of, and they were using wheels. But what if there were older civilizations, before the Sumerians? It would seem that some folks believe that is impossible? Why is that? Are we so closed-minded? Are we afraid that if something new comes along, revealing distant history we never considered before, that it will rip the foundations of our world out from under us?

Well it frightens me, just a bit. How about you? I mean really? Today we know about evolution, previous species of Human and proto-Human that walked and crawled the Earth before us, and even with us. Today we know of early Humans who lived in caves and buried their dead. And we know that our modern species homo sapiens sapiens has been around for at least a million years. Do you seriously believe that a million years was needed before we could develop a basic civilization only 6000 years ago? Not likely.

Humans are intelligent and resourceful. If we've been around a million or more years, why are we so disinclined to believe that we could have built cities 10,000, 20,000 50,000 or even more years ago?

I find it ironic that some people still refuse to believe that global warming is a serious threat to our modern society. Some, particularly the religious right in the USA, including people like James Dobson, believe it or not, still claim it is all some kind of "liberal plot". Really?

When Darwin postulated his original theory of evolution nearly 200 years ago, he was reviled and ridiculed for even thinking that Humans could have evolved from earlier species of hominid. Today, despite having reasonable genetic evidence to support this theory, we still have nice folks determined to believe that the Devil put those bones in the rocks to trick us, and all those scientists are lost souls who have fallen for it. Surprisingly these nice folks are the same people who want to run the world and force others to believe what they believe. On second thought, perhaps I shouldn't find that surprising at all. How about all those home schools then? *wink*

Do we as the Human race really think this planet has always looked the way it does now? Why can we believe so easily in tectonic shift, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, evolution - but not in rising sea levels? Why can we believe in the evolution of species, but not the evolution of the planet? Why can we believe in quantum physics, but not in people that were smart enough to build cities in what is geologically speaking, the blink of an eye ago? Humans have even played golf on Earth's moon, for cripe's sake.

Perhaps it's because of what we were brought up to believe in? That the world fits into this finite, restrictive little box - limited by the sum of our modern knowledge? That we really don't know as much as we thought we do, that there is so much more out there waiting to be discovered in our distant past, reaching so far back it could drive us mad with trying to cope with it all? Perhaps it's because this sort of find challenges the foundations of what we are taught by people who claim to know everything - the teachers, the pastors and ministers who are suddenly faced with conundrums of legitimacy. Perhaps it's frightening because we see there really is no beginning and no end - we are just used to thinking there is. Time just goes on and on and on and on, and aside from the very beginning of our world and the very last moments of it, things between just are.

Nothing changes, but yet everything changes. I am reminded by all these things of the quote from the bible, Ecclesiastes I believe, that says "There is nothing new in the world, everything that is, has been before."

So, the next time somebody mutters something stupid about "the end of the world", I will probably respond "again??" because this is not new either - clearly, it has happened before - and will happen again, and again. Civilizations are born, cultures grow, histories are written and forgotten. In the end, everything dies and is replaced by something else. And the world will always be here, different, the same, until the very last day when the Sun swallows all ten planets of our solar system.

If we refuse to accept knowledge because it frightens us, we will never grow. If we give in to fear, we will never outgrow hatred.

The unknown is something most people fear after all, even when we are just talking about our flapping gay neighbors or that funny auntie at the church who smells like cheese - let alone finding ruins of ancient cities left by nameless, faceless people that predate our expectations and our most ancient knowledge. To them, the unknown is something that should be covered up, denied, ignored and if possible, persecuted out of existence.

Ask any slightly Pink person, and they can tell you this.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Polly Wanna Cracker

It seems that some people just know how to make a lasting impression. I suppose you could say they might have been reading a dog-eared copy of "How to make friends and influence people", or might have, if it was available in their local religious book store, with suitable recommendations. In fact, some people will read or believe any old thing, as long as it is sold from such places, preferably with strong recommendations from folks like James Dobson or Erroll Naidoo, and assurances that it won't "corrupt" their minds, faith or threaten their families by actually causing them to think.

Last night I went to church. For those of you who know I am an agnostic, you might well be correct in wondering what I would be doing there. In fact I'm pretty sure I'm wondering what I was doing there. Well, wonder no more.

I took my mom there last night, because of her health and her age and I went in with her because she didn't want to go in alone, which is pretty understandable. I'm pretty sure she thinks she's doing some good by twisting my rubber arm to sit next to her for that hour and a half, although I have to wonder if I will be able to endure yet another session like that any time soon.

Now let me tell you about this church I went to with Mom last night. It's a church I attended for years and years, since I was 8 until recently, when I decided I was an agnostic and didn't really feel like going anymore just to put a pretty face on and flutter my pretty eyelashes at the cute guys or girls I saw there. In fact, this church is possibly the only church I feel comfortable going to, because quite honestly it is the only church I know in my city that doesn't preach judgment and persecution of any particular minority group - especially any I happen to be part of. I could be wrong, but to my knowledge there aren't any others here. In fact some churches in my city openly reject people for being gay or for being trans - and one even goes so far as to fund groups in Uganda that advocate state-sponsored genocide of the Pink Community. Shame on them. What would Jesus do? Or should I ask, who would Jesus kill?

So nevertheless, I went to church with mom last night. I did it for her, you see. What was it about last night that got to me? Was it the fact that I'm agnostic? Nope. Was it the message of the pastor that annoyed me? Nope - he was pretty good, better than the last time as a matter of interest. He's improved a heck of a lot. In fact, he was talking about Christ as one who shared love and was an example of love and tolerance and inclusiveness. he even got a few nods of approval - and one or two chuckles out of me. What then?

Perhaps it was the dude sitting in front of me, who spoke up during the comment session afterwards. He made a speech about Christianity being about the rules in the old testament, about the "fact" that the "sexually immoral" and those who break the law deserve to be judged and punished and burnt in "the lake of fire", about the "Great Commission" and the Christian "right to rule the world". He couldn't answer the challenge about WHO should cast such judgment over others, but launched into a tirade about how much such people deserve to die "for their sins".

Yeah, right on, man - that just made me feel all warm and tingly all over.

At least I wasn't the only one to recognize this guy as a right-wing fanatic and a trouble-maker. He was cut short because the service was already genuinely 15 minutes over time, and he was grandstanding.

I wonder if this chappie, who I have never seen before, sat on his ass looking like he was in the back of the bus all the way through the service - even during the praise and worship session - had the faintest clue what he was talking about, parrot-fashion - or even who was sitting behind him?

You might think remembering and regurgitating scripture parrot-fashion is a good thing - until someone points out the fact that a parrot is a bird-brain.

I strongly resisted the urge to walk up to him at coffee afterwards, to say to him "I'm a bisexual transsexual woman, an agnostic, and I have friends of all faiths and persuasions - what are you going to do about it?" I decided against it, because I was not going to make trouble for an affirming Church that welcomes anyone wanting to hear their message of Christ's love and inclusiveness. I was not going to spoil my evening still further by butting heads with a closed-minded right-wing religious fundamentalist. No, I left that for the Minister, who took the guy under his wing for a nice warm chat, smiling, after which one possible future of Christianity stood around in isolation for a while, on the outside, looking in - before slinking off into the night.

I'm sorry, but the Levitican ideal of a punishing hateful God and a bandana-wearing, AK-47 wielding Christ doesn't sit well with me. I don't see people who advocate murder and violence and oppression as Christ-followers. I don't see people who set themselves up in positions to pass fatal judgment over others while calling themselves Christians and "saved" as honest - or Christians. I am fairly certain that the Christ he was talking about isn't the Christ I grew up knowing, as I'm fairly certain the other folks who were there are too. In fact I'm happy to say they were just as uncomfortable as I. And why shouldn't they be? People who think that way - if you could apply the abstract concept of "thought" to brain-washed responses at all - make anyone who can think for themselves a little twitchy. They're a loaded weapon, just waiting to go off.

Thank God for fair-minded Christ-followers, thank God for loving Christians who aren't walking rule-books who aren't all about conquering the world in the name of some fictitious revolutionary figure who would have them spill the blood of anyone who disagrees with them. Thank God there are still people out there who identify with Christ's message of love, peace and tolerance and can tell it apart from the growing message of hatred, intolerance, world-domination and persecution increasingly being labelled "Christianity", and who can tell the difference.

Thank God I'm an agnostic.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Grow A Pair

Sadly most trans people like being in the closet too much to get involved in educating the public on trans issues. I know of some others here in my city, and every one of them is flatly uninterested in exposing themselves to public view - leaving trans-activism to non trans people - and broadly speaking, giving them the opportunity to blame a lack of progress on others.

Yes of course, it's not easy exposing yourself to the world as a trans person - it's hard enough trying to convince ignorant family members that you don't get a thrill out of wearing women's underwear, or like playing with little boys like some of those pedophile Catholic priests do - and as usual, we are SO ashamed to be trans we could never accept the idea of actually being PROUD of who we are or for our achievements as trans people. In fact, we set out to spend the rest of our lives denying that we ever left the factory with slightly different equipment before having an "upgrade" - or even that any such "upgrade" ever took place.

It's safer to slide over from one side of the closet to the other, rather than stepping out and taking a stand by being visible. It's safer to continue letting people get away with judging you and persecuting you for who you are or how you were born. It's more convenient to keep your mouth shut while people continue to call women "him" or "it" and to discriminate unfairly. It's so much easier for some of us to blame the so-called "cis-gays" for the lack of advancement in civil rights battles, rather than looking at ourselves for not having the gumption to get involved in advocacy organizations ourselves or simply starting our own.

If you're confused about the term "cis-gay", it refers to gay people who are not gender-variant - in other words, non-trans people who are gay. In my opinion, while it may come in useful to describe certain antagonists within our Pink Community who make hypocrites of themselves by fighting for gay rights while neglecting to include trans and intersex rights - it is just another unwelcome label to be slapped on one part of our Pink Community by another part, and further in my opinion, just another way to hammer those splitting blocks into the cracks even harder.

Yes, blame the "cis-gays" - some of them are only fighting for their own civil rights and equality - while some of them who actually know what trans people are and care, include us with them. So why aren't you fighting too? Do you think generals fight wars alone? Are you a "passenger" criticizing the conduct of the driver? Are you in the back seat, not willing to do anything to change things, but have a lot to say about those who are trying to make a difference in their own way? Can you do any better? Well, can you? What's stopping you?

Every two days, a trans person is reported killed somewhere on Earth. That's about 153 people a year - 153 of us. It's being called a slow decentralized genocide, and I agree with this conclusion. It is hate when you kill someone for what they are, making it a hate crime. And hate is a universal Human characteristic - anyone can hate, and anyone can be hated. Anyone can die. When is it going to be your turn? When will it be mine? Do you think things will just get better if you pretend to be the proverbial ostrich with your head stuck in the sand? Will death pass you by because you've closed your eyes and you think it won't see you? Really? Isn't it about time you did something about it?

I think it's ironic that a trans woman who had the guts to have hers removed, has to tell other people to "grow a pair".

You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. And you can't fight for your rights without showing people who you are. I'm doing it - and nobody's fired me or killed me for it yet. What's your excuse?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reja-vu

POI is getting a white-wash from government, and from figures who think it is a good idea to censor the free Press. Some say it will redress the wrongs under the still existing (yet hardly enforced) Apartheid-era secrecy law. (Of course they are hoping that by using the "A-word" the lemmings will decide in favor of the POI without bothering to think further than - "oh it must be better then".) Instead of just scrapping it, or using the original draft replacement law from three years ago, which was in line with democratic values - they want to replace it with an "upgrade", a V2.0 - no doubt soon to be followed by an "Apartheid v2.0". The working title for this little exercise in retribution could be something on the lines of "the Formerly Oppressed Strike Back", and we all have a pretty good idea of who the main characters will be, and how it will play out. After all, we've seen it all before - just across the border in what used to be a fairly prosperous neighboring country.

While the in-fighting between the different splinter-groups within the "Tripartite Alliance" and the ANC itself can be very amusing at times, mostly it is worrying and damaging to our young and currently faltering democracy. Most especially of concern are the shenanigans of the ANCYL leader, who is single-handedly demonstrating to us just how close we are to a complete failure of that democracy. If he isn't criticizing the Constitution or democratic values, or his own superiors in the ruling party, or its alliance partners, or the country's President - then he appears to be setting himself up to replace them. And goodness knows, nobody in the ANC ever seems to have the balls big enough to give that disruptive little communist the WWF smack-down he seems to be cruising for. No other political party in the world, no matter how liberal, would put up with this level of international embarrassment on account of a mere YOUTH league representative and employee. But yet, they do - and every day Kiddie Amin seems to be increasingly a law unto himself, egged on by his masses of ignorant and uneducated supporters with one foot still in revolutionary thinking.

Every day we South Africans have grown used to watching the news to see this buffoon open his mouth to change feet at our expense.

Give people like this enough time and enough room to maneuver and pretty soon they will be making official statements about how "un-African" certain diverse groups are, how "threatening" and how "immoral" - while of course using ideologies foreign to Africa as a means to decide what "un-African" means.

Terry Pratchett defines "reja-vu" as "a hair of the dog that's going to bite me" - and what is that, other than a warning of things to come going unheeded and ignored?

I spent a weekend chatting to a very interesting man from Zimbabwe, a man who now works for an international radio station based in Johannesburg, and broadcasting on matters affecting democracy in Africa, and also sexual minorities and diversity in Africa. I find it very interesting to hear his take on our country. And this guy isn't affected by tunnel vision or short-sightedness. Oh no, he's been around. In fact, he had to leave his country and his family because he had legitimate reason to fear for his safety, and still does. And when people who have been through the failure of their own country's democracy start to shout and wave their arms pointing out that "this is exactly what happened 15 years ago in my country", then I think the rest of us need to start paying attention.

But are we?

Oh I have no doubt there are some people who are watching current events, but overall I think they are the ones who are making plans to get out as soon as things start to fly apart. Or sooner. I hear so few people actually making plans to get involved to hold things together, to show active support to groups, social and political, to defend democracy and to counter the decay and rot and the stink of fascism and totalitarian intent emanating from "gov-a-ment". I hear so few people talking about 2014 or even 2011 elections in a positive light.

It seems to me the rest of South African society just don't care about equality or democracy - or that the wrong sort of people do. Those who want to take away people's rights, they care. They're the ones making all the noise, campaigning, doing radio and TV interviews on so-called "morality" and stirring up xenophobia. They're the ones collecting fat donations from Churches and sympathetic businesses and thanking the same God worshiped by a diverse section of the population for helping them to destroy that diversity. They're the ones cozying up to government officials and politicians and sharing ideas with them, and influencing them. They're the ones walking down the streets on Saturday mornings handing out leaflets about issues that concern them - not us.

The people affected? What do they do? They just roll over and pretend nothing they can say or do will change things. Freedom of speech? Nah, dunno what that is, don't need it. Media Tribunal, who cares? I don't read, I watch the box. Porn? Take it away, I don't like it - too bad if anyone else does. Register to vote? Why bother - my one vote won't change anything. Employment Services Bill? Why worry - I can't find work anyway because I'm "too white" and too lazy to get off the welfare - etc.

And at the same time, these people sit and complain and moan about their circumstances, or the way things are being done - they will do it all day long if they are given the time to do it in - just don't ask them to lift a finger to do anything about it. No, somebody else must do it for them. Pathetic.

As a human rights activist and supporter of equality and democracy I have always resisted the temptation to look down on anyone, no matter how different they may be from me - but let me tell you that people who act like this sorely tempt my resolve. Sometimes I feel like telling them "fine - don't do anything - if you're too stupid or useless to take an interest in your own affairs, or to protect your civil rights - don't complain when you lose them." Sometimes I feel like telling them "If you're too damned uninterested to protect democracy, you don't deserve it anyway - and you deserve whatever is coming."

They act as if just moving away will make everything better. That's right, pack up and leave without even trying to make a difference. Do you think the other places you're running to got to be "better" because the people who live there just pack up and run off whenever circumstances aren't favorable?

Typical.

But you're here, reading this. So here we are, you and me.

Yet I wonder why people like you and me have to keep fighting these battles? We're just people with jobs, not advocates with big law firms or activists or politicians with massive well-funded and organized bodies behind us. We're people with families and dependents, just like them. We also see problems, just like they do.

The Christians have a good saying that goes "God helps those who help themselves". In my agnostic mind, that is a good motivational way to say "Get off your ass and do it yourself, and you can thank God later". Too bad nobody seems to give a toss. No, "somebody else" can do it for me. I'm just going to sit back and see what they do about it, and in the meantime, I'll just get ready to pack up and leave when the shit hits the fan.

Sometimes I think all the smart folks have already left this sinking ship, and we're left to rearrange deck chairs, you and I. Sometimes I think those who are left here are the ones who have nowhere to go, the last dregs at the bottom of the barrel, the people nobody else wants or cares about when things go wrong. We are the sort that would end up being refugees in a neighboring country further south, if there still was anything further south than us to run to.

I'm tired. And discouraged. For an activist, this is never a good thing. There are too few of us willing to get in the fight, and too many of them in it. My voice hurts from all the shouting. My head hurts from all the thinking. My eyes hurt from all the hours in front of a pc screen. But my ears hurt far more from all the silence.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Just Keep Swimming

These days I find myself referring to the little blue fish in that adorable movie "Finding Nemo", the one that kept on saying "just keep swimming". And no matter what, no matter how bad things got in the movie, that was her philosophy, and she stuck to it - "just keep swimming". I can't help but draw comparisons between circumstances and the wisdom and stoicism of that little fish - or the writer for that matter. No matter what happens next, no matter how much people surprise - or shock, or disappoint me.

Since when did we Pink folks in South Africa start looking down on and judging other people by their inborn characteristics? When did we decide we were too good to socialize with or compete with others? Where did this smarmy superior attitude and this mentality of "if we can't win, then it must be rigged" come from? When did we decide that gay people are equal to straight people, but some gay people are more equal than others?

It's not just a Pink thing or a gay thing, it seems - but a South African thing. We see it every time the Boks, Proteas or Bafana lose on the playing field, even if it was a fantastic match like last Saturday's rugby battle - with just one point difference in the score. "Ah, they're rubbish!" The "die-hard" SA fans say in disgust, as they take off their team paraphernalia and pretend they were out drinking with their mates instead of watching the game. I can see the same tendency with politics and the folks leaving the country because "their team lost" or "doesn't stand a chance".

I think I've discovered the answer to the problem.... us. The problem is us activists. We're too far ahead of society in SA - many foreigners tell me SA is 20 years behind in terms of societal mindset. It's all our fault for trying to accelerate a process of unity between two groups that never used to socialize before - let alone want to share a stage or a dance floor. I think as activists, we're more-or-less on a mental and social par with US activists, while most of our own community is still stuck on issues of race, having just recently struggled over the language divide between English and Afrikaans... And the human rights activists...we're the thinkers and the do-ers, and we're being ham-strung by having to carry - no, drag - much of our community along behind us at our pace instead of at the slow, plodding pace of their retro-grade thinking.

That's why many black and colored folks don't want to attend our community events, and they are predominantly attended by white folks. They don't feel welcome, or catered for. And when activists and groups try to make them feel welcome by playing a wider selection of more diverse music or content for example, then some of the other supporters tend to pack up their picnic mandjies en gaan soek vir groener wyvelde... It's the same when you try to arrange an event for gay males and females... there are cultural differences, differing musical tastes - the mind simply boggles. And it really is impossible to please everybody.

In the USA for example, according to some "gaystream" media in the USA "homophobia is over" - congratulations - now you can look forward to a future of disinterest and apathy in which the Religious Right will build up their assault on your rights with nobody to stop them - like we have found out in South Africa. Apathy is a bitch, ain't she?

(Learn the lesson South Africa is teaching you. When you think you have equality, your community evaporates and becomes apathetic. Persecution makes you strong. The only way to counter this and prevent disaster is to find a balance. This is a tactic the Levitcans use to keep their power and momentum, by inventing "threats" and "enemies" when there are none. But this is an aside, taking me off topic. )

The reason I bring this up is the reported dramatic increase in right-wing (meaning Religious Right) attacks on Muslims in the USA. Homophobia seems to be down, according to some sources - but "Islamophobia" is up. Witness the uproar when an Islamic community announced plans to open a Mosque on privately owned land a short distance from the 9/11 Ground Zero zone a few weeks ago. And now the announcement by some sycophant right wing Levitican preacher (who probably hates Muslims and Pink folks in one breath) that he intends to burn a pile of Qur'ans on Saturday on the anniversary of 9/11. What a chop. Odds are, he would start a merry song and dance if some Muslim cleric were to retaliate by burning a load of bibles - and try to make it all their fault.

The response to these xenophobic affronts to the concepts of equality, non-discrimination and democracy has been very encouraging. Pink advocacy groups and leading figures have been among those speaking out against these rising incidents of hate and intolerance against Muslims, as I would hope they would do for any unfairly persecuted minority group. Which to me shows that people there - at least the Pink Community there, are a good deal more open-minded than the majority of us here.

I could argue that the government doesn't do enough here in South Africa to lessen tensions between various groups - notably on issues of sexual orientation or gender identity. You don't see any government led initiatives to educate rural people on these matters, or doing anything at all to counter the high number of "corrective rapes" of lesbians and murders of trans people. Yet much has been said by government initiatives about the rape of virgins not actually working as a cure for HIV.

But here in South Africa, we have a gay man of color who entered the regional finals of a gay pageant and won - and suddenly the racist f***nuts and National Party left-overs come crawling out of the woodwork, making ridiculous claims of "rigging" and "race quotas" and even worse things. And the most amazing - or should I say shocking thing - is that these people making the comments are not straight, white and narrow - and they're not members of a formerly oppressed majority group with a grudge suddenly landed with political power and influence - they're part of a currently marginalized group that still faces a great deal of prejudice and unfair discrimination! Yet these same people will be up in arms at the first mention of homophobia being directed against them! Talk about hypocrisy.

Some of the comments posted under online community news articles covering the event were quite disheartening and even shocking. They ranged from the sour grapes of friends of those who didn't win, to depraved comments indicating that they thought the man didn't deserve to win because he wasn't "as white" as the others who lost! As a person who has tasted xenophobia based on who and what I am, I find that hurtful and disgusting. I can't believe that gay people can turn on their own like that. I can't believe there are still such terribly deep divisions in our community. And yet it is a reality. And you might be a fellow South African reading this and thinking "duh", but the thing with divides is, they're not good at all. Let me say why:

Divisions make any group weaker. In fact, I think the only reason we're not living in a "Christian" country yet, goose-stepping down the streets in crisp white uniforms, wearing little blue crosses - is because the Christian religion is so sharply divided. Contrary to popular belief, there isn't one Christian religion, there are quite a few. There is "Christianity" as the Leviticans see it - all rules and regulations that need to be forced on everyone else at all costs, and Christianity - the teachings of love, humanity and compassion - as sane, ordinary folks see it. If not for these clear divisions between left and right, and between Levitican and Christ-follower, those of us who don't fit into the little pigeon-holes of religious perfection and ideology would be in some serious dwang.

Divisions in our Pink Community, between color and race, between languages and cultures, between the little letters that make up that ridiculous and annoying LGBTIQ etc, etc acronym - weaken us. And such weaknesses can be - and often are - exploited by those who seek to weaken us further, break us down, destroy us.

I honestly don't know what to do about this anymore, except to just bite down harder and keep on going. I hope you will too, just like the little blue fish.

Just keep swimming.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Blah, Blah, Click, Click

I don't think laws in South Africa are formulated by the SA people anymore - these days laws just break the news when they are about to be passed by parliament - like the POI and Media Tribunal - and as they clearly demonstrate, these are one-sided and extremely partisan, working against democracy. This is not transparency, this is not "due process". We need more "Glasnost" in South Africa!

Everywhere, I hear people complaining about politicians and politics, people whining that "The elected should remember how they got elected - and every decision they take should be given the litmus test "Is this good for the people?". When they remember that being elected is an expression of trust by the people and not a ticket to entitlement we might get somewhere."

Of course, as this person (a good friend of mine from High School days) says - "If anyone looks up the dictionary definition of democracy they might be in for a shock."

Chambers dictionary defines democracy as - "a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively, and is administered by them or by officers appointed by them; the common people; a state of society characterized by recognition of equality of rights and privileges for all people; political, social or legal equality."

And as he pointed out: "Now, where exactly does it say "majority rule"? Democracy means that every person has an equal voice - and equal responsibility."

Thank you Morne' - *applause* - If everyone thought like that (in particular the last sentence), I would have no problem getting volunteers to help in canvassing or advocacy. Clearly, not everyone thinks the same way, or even thinks at all. We live in a culture of placing blame, passing the buck and scapegoating. But my friend's observations did not end there, however.

"My question is what happened to pride?" He said. "Remember when we'd proudly hand in a school project and claim "it was all my own work" or when being creative the result would have "I made this" as a proud stamp. When things go wrong you equally have to stand up and say "I did that". If you do something and it goes pear-shaped, admit it. Getting it wrong is part of life, passing the buck just makes you look incompetent. Even the best get it wrong. What makes them the best is the admission of failure and then the effort to fix the mistake."

I agree. Let's take the school project example. Do you know how easy kids have it today with research? Just pop on the web or google it. Download it, print it. Worse yet, do you know how many parents ask me to do it for them on behalf of their kids? Because their kids need blah, blah for their school project, and they don't know where to look or to find blah, blah, etc.

We had to do it all ourselves, go to the library, look for a book, make models, make photocopies, make posters or draw pictures by hand - and be creative. The most help I used to get from my parents was a suggestion of what sort of project to do - I had to do it all myself. We used to get penalized if the teachers even suspected our parents did our projects for us. These days, homework and school projects are broadly an extra load on the parents while the kids sit on the sidelines, being spoon-fed and getting graded on the efforts of their parents (no doubt putting the skills they learned at school to good use). That gripe aside, these days it is far easier and there is more info available - and it is easier to find - but people are also lazier, too lazy to look for it, think about it, make use of it, to do it themselves - blah, blah, click, click.

It's the same now in politics and democracy - the people who have the final say - the voters - expect other people to do everything for them without them having to make the effort to lift a finger to get involved, or to be bothered with the details - and as the old saying goes: "the devil is in the details".

Details like less people will object to the so-called "Porn" Bill because they will just see "porn" on it and agree with it in principle, without noticing that it is geared towards censoring the internet, mobile networks and TV - and can be used to prevent Jane and Joe Public from accessing anything the government will deem "inappropriate" or a "threat to children". Yes, details like that.

People sitting on the sidelines will soon get upset when they can't access their chat websites online (a "threat to state security"), or watch their favorite gay, trans or lesbian character in a soapie ("perverse", contrary to "nation-building" and a "threat to children"), or read believable investigative journalism (another "threat to state security") in news media anymore - but by then it will be far too late. Transparency and freedom of access to information and freedom of the Press are paramount - WITHOUT THOSE THINGS, WE HAVE NO DEMOCRACY. Without these things, we can forget about free and fair elections, and non-interference of the Big Brother state in public and private affairs.

It has been really annoying lately, speaking to people who are supposed to be responsible enough to vote - after all, they have the required bar-coded green ID book, they can own and drive a motor vehicle on a public road and are supposed to be responsible enough to not kill people in the process. They're old enough to own a gun. It's frustrating how many people try to excuse their uselessness and stupidity with brainless comments like "If I were to vote, it won't make a difference" and "Nothing will help now - this country is f***ed." Well they're wrong - and right at the same time - wrong because their failure to vote is a failure of democracy - and their failure to vote to make a difference is a vote against democracy. And they're right, because they are the useless barnacles that are f***ing this country up by not participating in the decision-making process that could make a difference.

We need less blah, blah, click, click - and less barnacles. We need more people who walk the talk.

Which one are you?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Take A Stand

Many people are talking about leaving South Africa for greener pastures. Who can really blame them? With a government seemingly doing its best to ruin the country after the brilliant success of the Soccer World Cup a few short months ago, who isn't left with a sense of shock and uncertainty? With a multi-pronged attack on democracy and the underpinnings of the Constitution coming from various government departments, the future for South Africans seems bleak indeed. But never so bleak as when there is a realistic chance of standing up to the hijackers of democracy - and those who should be taking a stand are doing so in the emigrations queue at the airport.

There are days when I feel the same way - for example, when I see apathy all around me. Two weeks ago I was at a petition signing against the "Protection of Information" Bill and Media Tribunal. So many people just shrugged and said "it won't help" or they "don't do politics". Of course it won't help - if people think as they do. They have given up, surrendered without a fight. They're impotent, defeated. Others are so STUPID they don't even know what "freedom of the press" even means. And yes, of course - they went to school. What they did there though, is anybody's guess. It is so frustrating.

Being involved with an Opposition party, I hear things. I hear how positive they are about the coming municipal elections in 2011 and general elections in 2014. They really believe they can win. They really believe we can get this country back on track. And I'm going to do more than just sit back and give them a chance to prove it, I'm going to help them make it happen.

I do have a passport handy, for in case the proverbial excrement were actually to hit the rotary bladed contrivance - and I daresay I would have to be pretty stupid not to. But really, why should I leave? I haven't been personally affected by serious crime, in fact I don't even know anyone in my immediate surroundings who has. I know one or two people who have been burgled a few times, one or two who have been hijacked in other cities. Here I have a job, a car, a house that's paid up, a life, networking, contacts, friends, family, a community, a future. Anywhere else, I have nothing. I will have to start over from the very bottom. Of course, I am a realist and practical and I will do it if I have to - but why, if it makes more sense to keep what I already have, fight for it, and build on it?

Oh, there may be crime in other countries too the lemmings say (some friends of mine from Germany told me amusing tales of car-jackings and burglaries there last weekend), but nowhere else in the world are babies left abandoned on railway lines or raped as a "cure" for AIDS. Uhuh. Like that has ever happened to them.

You can leave your car unlocked for weeks in New Zealand, and your house too, they say. Of course, that doesn't mean there is a 100% guarantee that nobody will take you up on your offer, or your brute stupidity. Sorry, but I think only an idiot doesn't lock their car or house when nobody's home, no matter where you live - and I dare you to prove me wrong. Just because you live in a first world country, doesn't mean there are no criminals. It just means they are smarter, and they might not actually kill you for your mobile phone or the change in your pocket.

What I see here is reasons to stay and sort out the mess we're living in, make it right - not to live life as a victim, a refugee, to give up my life here, my home, friends, family - and run away and always feel like an outsider in somebody else's country. I was born here, nobody can ever claim I don't belong here. Nobody can call me a 'bloody immigrant" or a "leech", or even a "racist" simply for being a White South African not wanting to live in my own country under a multiracial government.

Back in the day, when I was at high school, we used to hear about people leaving because of the economic downturn, and sanctions that Apartheid brought upon us all - and in those days we used to hear comments about "the chicken run" and my favorite was a poster with a light switch and a sign reading "Will the last person to leave South Africa please turn out the light". Nowadays, with the government's fingers stuck in the till up to the elbows and the blatant incompetence of our power regulator, commonly called "Eishkom" - it seems a picture of a candle would be more appropriate. And it seems that even if we fail and end up leaving ourselves one day, there will still be people here in South Africa - those the lemmings are trying to get away from, and those who have nowhere else to go.

I've been hearing good things about Cape Town and the Western Cape lately. Unsurprisingly, the province is under new management since the last elections. The streets are clean, crime is down and the Metro is being managed competently and efficiently. The ruling party of course, doesn't like this, and so they are scheming ways to sabotage this development, even if it means changing the Constitution to dispose of South Africa's provinces and municipal elections altogether.

If all the people who just packed up and scooted overseas over the past 16 years had stayed and acted like responsible citizens and voted instead, the whole country would have been more like the Western Cape by now. Same goes for the useless "barnacles" that stay here and still don't bother to vote - a bunch of "suurstofdiewe" (oxygen thieves) if I've ever seen any.

Whenever things get tough for them, should people just pack up and leave? Are rape or robbery victims and families of murdered people the only people leaving the country? How many of them have really been personally affected by crime? How many of them are leaving just because they have allowed fear and paranoia to get the better of them? How many of them are leaving simply because they are too lazy to stay? It is simply too much effort for them to lift a finger to try and make things better here.

Wherever I go, there I am. Wherever I may go to, I will still carry my baggage with me, fight to establish myself, start fresh, protect my rights, build a life for myself and those I love. It might as well be here.

Sure, the POI and Media Tribunal are only the tip of the iceberg of new laws that will sink our democracy like the Titanic - succumbing gradually by the head, like an old woman passing in her sleep. But the POI and Media Tribunal Bills, the Internet Censorship aka "porn" Bill, NGO Control Bill and Employment Services Bill haven't been passed into law yet. If we're lucky and enough people fight them hard enough, they may never realize.

Not everyone is built in a way that can stand and fight. Maybe it's because I am that I overlook that sometimes. But just think for a moment - ONE person's vote can make a difference in an election. One person can make a difference in raising awareness and motivating people around them to vote or to take a stand.

People are mostly lemmings - one runs, they all run - but let one person take a stand, scared or not...

Be that person.