Monday, December 12, 2011

Crime & Contemplation

Crime & punishment. This concept is also known as criminal justice and deals with how fairness, legality and morality affect law and order. The term criminal justice can sometimes refer to the industry that surrounds crime and punishment. Some of the many careers in the field are covered on this criminal justice degree site, along with information on educational requirements for those working in this field. I am more concerned with the idea of criminal justice as a social issue. People seem to think that it is socially acceptable that punishment should fit the crime. All too often we find ourselves asking - does it?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

There Is In Prejudice, No Fairness, Nor Equality

We are all losing a little bit of our equality and freedom, a little bit at a time. All of us, in every social grouping, whatever the basis for discrimination or differentiation, are affected. We all belong to a race group, a gender, a sexual orientation, a personal expression, and have our own religious beliefs. How long before all of us are equal only in our disenfranchisement, powerlessness and despair?

Given the looming Secrecy Bill which is, I am certain, designed to cushion the State and ruling party from ongoing Media criticism and scandals resulting from numerous and plentiful allegations and revelations of corruption, fraud, mismanagement and gross incompetence, it seems "some" newspaper Editors enjoy indulging in a little secrecy of their own.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We Are Big Brother

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - this a Latin proverb meaning "who will guard the guardians?" or "who will watch the watchdogs?"

Correct me if I'm wrong - but in a democracy, that is the job for the People, the Citizenry, the Electorate, or the body politic. That's us. We do. Or don't - depending on what little laws or obstacles those elected to power roll in the way to obstruct our view of what they are up to, post-fact. Or of course, unless they are lucky enough to have an electorate too apathetic to give a rats ass what they do in our name, be that for us - or to us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is Democracy In South Africa Dead?

"█████ ██ █ ████everything ███ █████ is█████ ████ ████ fine ████ ███ █ █████ love,█████ ██████ ███ your █████ ████ government #BlackTuesday" - This is a message that has been doing the rounds today on the web, and on Facebook. The topic of conversation? The controversial "Protection Of Information Bill, aka the "POI" Bill. It was today passed, after being railroaded through Parliament.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Passing On The Torch

It is very close to the end of another year, and the time has come again for me to reflect on the past, to take stock - and to chart a new course for my future in human rights activism. You may recall I started out as an activist for the human rights of the Pink Community, specifically with the SA Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (SA GLAAD) - an organization I am still serving on - and have since also become more involved with other causes attached to the cause of human rights. Among these was a group called ECGLA.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mirror, Mirror

As a non-Christian, I have never understood the need some people have to indoctrinate others, or to try and force their own views on them. When this sort of thing takes place during a time of grieving and mourning, such as at a funeral, it just makes it even worse.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Challenges of Life

I believe where it is SAFE to do so, transgender people should be out and proud. And where it isn't safe, they should be proud if not out - and they should still work for equality, dignity and human rights so that they - and the generations that are to come - one day can be out. Nobody cares about people they don't know about, folks. When people don't remind folks that they really do exist, the haters, purists and bigots like to believe and pretend that they don't.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dismantling Fear

Many transsexual people I have encountered over time have chosen to introduce themselves to friends or aquaintances as being more than "just" transsexuals. Instead of just being honest about having been biologically male or female, and having changed that, they invent stories about having been born intersex - presumably because in their minds, the audience will somehow view them more sympathetically that way than if they were just honest to begin with.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kicking The Crutch

The world around us is filled with people who are selfish, cocky and arrogant about their own religious beliefs. I say not these things because I resent the pride others take in their religion, but because the pride some of them take in their choice of beliefs boils over into a hatred of the religious choices of others who choose differently to them, and into persecution of those who dare to do so.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Will Somebody Please Think Of The Children?

I regularly meet a friend of mine, who is a Christian reverend, for drinks at a local coffee shop. We enjoy casual chats about religion, persecution and human needs and frailties. He mentioned to me that there is no ONE Christianity, but many, and that today there are more than 200 different formally identified "mainstream" denominations - or "churches" around the world. Ironically, each one considers itself to be the ONE TRUE Christianity, or at least, the face of it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It Makes Sense, Doesn't It?

If you look at all the weird and wonderful new Bills being tabled in South Africa these days - there is little doubt in my mind that the Constitution and the freedoms contained within it - are clearly under assault. And those of us whose civil rights and equality are protected by those very clauses in the Constitution which are under assault, somehow seem unaware that we fill the sights and scopes on the weapons being directed against us by those who would chip away at our equality.

Monday, September 26, 2011

NMB Pride Is Our Heritage Day!

This past Saturday saw a first for my home town. Almost 20 years into our new democracy, Port Elizabeth still had not had a Pride parade or Pride event, in fact it was sometimes a pit-stop for travelers on their way from somewhere else, to Pride events being held - well, somewhere else. All that changed last Saturday, when the very first Nelson Mandela Bay Pride was held - and I was so very proud!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Facebook Outted Me

Facebook outted me, not for being being gay or transsexual, but for being associated with Pagan, occult and other alternative communities on Facebook.

Be warned - Pagans, drag queens, transgender people, gays living in countries where they face violence and murder, non-mainstream religious groups - anyone not using their legal names in order to interact safely online without fear of exposure or persecution - Facebook has appointed itself in charge of moral policing and is gunning for you.

Lots of folks anonymous profiles are being disabled by Facebook admins - because they are not using their legal names. It seems even Pagans are falling victim to this modern form of persecution which appears designed to either force persecuted minority groups out of FB, or to force us out into the open in order to face direct persecution.

There are a great many people who feel the need to interact under a nom de plume online. Contrary to first conclusions, most certainly do not have ulterior motives including child baiting or acts of terrorism in mind. Nor is it a new thing. Since the start of the internet, people have had user names or handles that gave them a measure of privacy on forums and other social media - and yet their actions are mostly within the law. In any event, few realize that they can be tracked or identified by their IP address or ISP identifications - that is bad enough as it is - but it is most likely only governments which can obtain such information, or very smart hackers. However, this move by Facebook is a direct assault on several freedoms enshrined not only in South Africa's Constitution, but America's as well.

"Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real first and last names and real birthday so you always know who you're connecting with.

Your name can’t include:
- Symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, or punctuation
- Characters from multiple languages
- Professional or religious titles

Other things to keep in mind:
- Nicknames can be used as your first or middle name if they're a variation of your real first, middle, or last name (like Bob instead of Robert)
- You can always list an alternative name on your account:
- Only one person's name should be listed on the account – profiles are for individual use only
- Pretending to be anything or anyone is not allowed

If you’re worried about your privacy, you can restrict who can find you in searches from the “Connecting on Facebook” page. To get to this page, click on the Privacy Settings link in the Account menu at the top of every Facebook page."

So apparently "Captain Jack Sparrow" wouldn't be welcome on Facebook, nor "Lieutenant Dan Choi" and neither would "C3-P0" or "the Pope". Cute.

The "alternate name" setting referred to above only gives the option of displaying both names on the same page - making it that much easier to connect my profiles and activities in different communities. Yes, please.

If one looks at their policy, strictly speaking - then anyone who is at risk of persecution should not be a member of Facebook - and Facebook would only cater for privileged social groups.

Gay people in Uganda for example dare not interact openly online on Facebook for fear of being targeted for intimidation, violence and death - would Facebook ban their profiles as "fake" too? Or would they simply "out" them on FB under their legal names as they did to me?

What is next? No more avatars? Will they demand a photo mug-shot style as well to be used as a profile picture? Do they seriously expect people to participate in online communities under their legal names with the likelihood that they will suffer harm for it? Apparently what is clear from this is their ultimatum - interact under your legal name, whatever the consequences - or don't interact at all. I suppose you could also say it is implied that if you need protection or anonymity to conduct personal business on Facebook, then you shouldn't be there - and more to the point, neither should communities of people who need anonymity because they fear persecution or prejudice or wish to interact without it.

What about transgender people who are busy transitioning and interact on Facebook without having obtained legal documentation in their new gender? Will Jane Smith be disabled because someone reports her for not using her legal name "John"? Will Facebook block them or out them? What about drag artists? Will Facebook prevent them from participating under their stage names? What about practitioners of religions which are persecuted in certain areas of the world?

This is either a very poorly conceived policy, or a very deliberate one.

In the meantime, there are now hundreds of posts as well as emails and other Facebook communication all over certain Facebook groups, and personal messaging between myself and others, which now bear my legal name - and which have now tied me to my private activities in various alternative communities.

While I have done nothing illegal, I still have the right to privacy - and this has been denied me. The policy of Facebook policy might WANT Facebook to be a place where people communicate under their legal names - but the reality - like the rest of the entire interweb - is something entirely different.

I have not deleted my second profile because of all the work connected to it, spanning several years - and the groups and Facebook friends to which I am added that would all be lost if I were to do so. I have had to close and limit access to my profile information, and remove everything from it that tied me to those communities. I now have to act like a paranoiac because of this ridiculous and unreasonable policy.

Facebook's appeal process does not allow any communications when appealing, and so I was unable to add any notes when I sent them a copy of my identity document, as requested, as proof that I was a real person operating that profile. I did so in good faith that my profile would be restored under the name it had originally. Instead, my legal name was entered into it, and locked so that it could not be altered again by me.

At any rate, this doesn't change the fact that I have been exposed - deliberately and willingly. Rest assured, if there were a viable alternative to Facebook, I would have closed my account and left.

This exposure has now revealed to persons within the communities in question, who might be regarded as hostile to me, my location and daily activities. People in my other social groups, my employer, colleagues and anyone who does a Facebook search for my legal name will now also find this profile and associated information.

It is a fundamental right for me to conduct business or to interact with privacy and under a pseudonym - and Facebook has denied me this. The damage is already done - I cannot recover my privacy and anonymity - it is now lost. I am bitterly and deeply aggrieved by this.

Speaking as a victim of this sort of betrayal and foulplay, I think this policy of FB is intended to force subcultures, alternative lifestyles and persecuted minorities either out of FB, or into the open where they can be targeted. It is abhorrent, and as an American company I believe it is acting contrary to the American constitution.

We need a broader international coalition of Pagans and alternative cultures and human rights activists to take this up with Facebook. If they will not listen to appeals from users, perhaps they will listen to an injunction from the US Supreme Court? Any takers on that?

This is all part of the "Big Brother's watching you" crap - because certain events around the world have featured people participating in violent protests like the riots in the UK communicating via FB to coordinate their strikes - and so they obviously have been taken to task by certain governments in order to prevent people from doing so under fake names so they can catch them. You can kiss democracy, freedom of expression and other liberties goodbye if this keeps up.

This measure and action discriminates against and endangers the privacy and and even the lives of LGBTI people, Pagans, Wiccans and participants in other alternative subcultures, and in fact anyone who feels reluctant to express themselves under their legal names for fear of reprisals and persecution.

What about those of us speaking out against this Facebook policy? Will Facebook delete this event and block those participating in it, or speaking out against their abuse of power? Will they continue to act like Big Brother?

Let's see.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Make Hate Great

Tolerance. Equality. Individual freedom. The right to self-expression. These are the things that make democracy great. These are the things that make life worth living.

And yet many people who claim to support these ideals, really do not. While they claim to, they see equality as something they are deserving of, while simultaneously they view anyone they do not personally approve of trying to gain equality with them as an attack on their own superior and privileged social positions. They distort facts and ideologies to serve their elitist and supremacist ideals, and hijack democracy in order to preserve a social order where words like "love" and concepts like "good" and "evil", and even terms like "family" and "marriage" become tools to exclude fellow human beings from equal, decent and humane treatment - and as weapons to destroy them.

The true ideals of democracy is not simply "mob rule" as some allege today. The underlying cause of the establishment of democracy as a system of government that led to the golden age of ancient Greece, was inequality.

People sometimes tend to forget that.

The same can be said of the ancient Roman republic - the Etruscan kings were deposed and replaced by a senate (which lasted until the time of the emperors). Through the centuries, people have always sought for some form of equal opportunity society, where all are equal before the law, where one class of people do not have autonomy to do what they will with the rights of the masses. Through the centuries, there have been a variety of experiments with different forms of government, and quite honestly, most of them are drenched in blood, and written in the ink of the hard lessons failure has to offer to the unwise, the impatient and the foolish.

To me it is equally abhorrent when people who participate in democratic government and who claim to have the best interests of "all" people at heart while they work tirelessly and without conscience to deprive a significant portion of any population of equality, dignity and right to exist in peace unmolested in the name of democracy - and employing the democratic system in achieving the goal of perpetually preserving specific groups of people with an "other" to hate, abuse and persecute in the interests of selfishness, unity and a hunger for power.

We need to ask ourselves why some people don't agree with equality for all people, and why anyone would oppose such lofty ideals? Why do they condemn the struggle for recognition by certain groups of people, while simultaneously claiming the same rights for themselves?

It seems reasonable to believe that someone who does not have full rights under law will not work to undermine their own rights - and so therefore those working to undermine the civil rights of the oppressed certainly consider themselves above other people and are working to prevent equality at all costs.

Why do they feel the need to paint those seeking equal rights under the law with the brush of "radical liberal", "unpatriotic anti-social", "anti-family", with the tar of "homo-fascist" or "homosexual terrorist"? When has a gay man walked into a homophobic church and blown it up? When has a gang of transsexual women straight-bashed a bigot for complaining about them using the restroom? Why do they choose to equate our need to be equal to them under law as "hijacking" legal process, or democratic values? Why do they seek to cheapen not only our ideals, but to devalue our lives as well, and to work to deride and continually undermine our right to exist alongside them?

How, when religion is separated from the mechanics of state, can some try to justify withholding the legal use of a word common to language and not unique to their religion - coupled with the legal union it describes?

Why, when science and medicine prove our worth, do they employ lies and propaganda to try and bluff people into hating? Why, when religions are built on foundations of tolerance, love and peace, do they twist the structure of the message into a liturgy of hatred, persecution and war?

Is it vanity? Pride? Arrogance? - Jealousy? Fear?

How can there be equality when the law favors one above the other, and the law suits one group people, while disadvantaging another, and is intended to keep it perpetually so? How can it be called "fair" when a person's worthiness to be treated with compassion and justice is dictated by who he loves, by what is between her legs, or by what pronoun they choose to be called by? How can it be considered "right" and "good" when people who claim those words as part of their set of values employ those values in campaigns of hatred, oppression and violence against others?

How, when logic and reason show there is no harm or threat inherent in treating others with respect and dignity as themselves, do people still partake in breaking down everything for which the principles of a free, equal-opportunity democratic society stands?

Why, when people who mis-lead such groups against equality for others, and vent so much bile, hate and ignorance in public forums, do they impart only the message that they are filled with hate, bile and ignorance - and that they have completely missed the point of their religious studies? Why, I ask, do people continue to hear them? Why do they continue to listen, and to partake, and to support them?

Can they not see how they are being used as pawns in applying inaccurate stereotypes, junk-science and prejudice for the purposes of creating inequality, blaming scapegoats, and perpetuating injustice?

Is it because they don't know any better, or because they aren't interested in knowing any better? Is it because they either can't or won't think for themselves? Or is it because they agree with these messages of exclusion, support the ideology of separation, and cherish the philosophy that they are somehow "better" than anyone else - and somehow deserve to be more equal than them?

And yet, all they do is to empower hate, uplift elitist values and enshrine oppression in the name of democracy, justice and love. Isn't it sickening?

You have to admire the kind of mind that can pull that off. You have to pity the kind of people who don't see it. You have to worry for those of us who do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Yes, Wiccan

I drive a Mazda, but I still know what a Mercedes Benz looks like. I have had Beetles, a Kombi, a Renault, a Toyota and a Golf as well. I realize they are all cars, and I at least have an idea of what makes each of them different from the other, and about the thing that makes them go. I also know that cars make traveling from one place easier and better. It doesn't mean I have to hate the other makes, or refuse to drive in whatever car my neighbor drives.

What I'm trying to put across in my own rather quizzical way, is religion. Yes, that. You may wonder what cars have to do with religion - but let me clear it up for you: I have been finding out the hard way how ignorant some people are about religions other than their own. Let's take Christianity as a prime example. Almost everyone in South Africa knows what Christianity is about, more or less - even non-Christians. Hindus know what is under the hood of Christianity, Pagans know how many gears it has, and Muslims even how many cylinders and how many liters. How can they not, living in a country where we are still bombarded with "Christian" messaging in media, entertainment and culture every single day? But answer any average Christian who asks you what your religion is with "I'm a Pagan" or "I'm a Wiccan", and they will astonish you with their ignorance.

"What's that?"

And then follows the Great Explanation. And then while explaining it, I am made to feel like a missionary, trying to prove the worth of my beliefs and experiences, as if I am like them, trying to convince them to believe with me. I'm not. I have my own opinions about things religious, and have no desire to convince John and Jane Smith to toss away their crutches to follow me into the forest.

In my experience, Christians are not encouraged to know details of other faiths and religions. They are indoctrinated from an early age to believe that Jews only believe Christianity half-way, Muslims are long-lost cousins who missed the boat, and anyone else who isn't a Christian, is somehow "trapped" in some form of satanism, albeit some milder than others.

They have no idea about the significance of Pagan symbology, and condemn all Pagan signs as being "signs of satanic worship". They rip into Paganism and Pagan holy days and festivals without even being aware that their ENTIRE religion is built upon a foundation of Pagan traditions, holy days, rituals, symbology and imagery.

For those who doubt this, please read this related article on the matter.

Most Christians have no cooking clue about Paganism and what are and aren't Pagan beliefs. They spread the ignorance by contending that Pagans are "satanists", that they "sacrifice" cats in the neighborhood, and that the old lady living alone in the village is a witch and is to blame for last week's crop failure, or so-and-so's illness, or Jane's failure to bear children. The teach intolerance in that some still adhere to the intolerant views that led to the Holy Inquisition, referred to by Wiccans as "the Burning Times". Incidentally, a LOT of people were murdered by Christianity in those days, not just those accused of being witches or devil worshipers, but many others - including members of the Pink Community. And all this cruelty and death and suffering for wealth, power, control and to stamp out diversity, individuality and freedom.

I have to say that looking at this institutionalized blind ignorance, where believers are discouraged from learning about other faiths, or questioning their own, the criticism leveled at non-Christians comes across as arrogant. Well, that's just my opinion - but holding up a book written and edited by people ver the last 2000 years ago and arguing that this is all you need to know and worry about - and that - all that other stuff outside is of the devil - is just plain stupid. Not nearly as stupid as people who willingly fall for it, and encourage others to as well.

Despite the multitude of lemmings who will follow, and even lead their race to the edge of the abyss, who will joyfully roll boulders into the way of other people, point fingers at them, and even persecute - there are still a great number of Christians who are tolerant of other people's beliefs, views and of their right to live alongside them in peace and equality. One has to appreciate these non-judgmental folks for it, even if we question how they somehow did not succumb to the anti-diversity and restrictive doctrine of all Christian denominations (and even the Catholic ones).

What I find interesting, is that since I entered the Pagan and Wiccan communities, I have encountered many, many who tell of their experiences among Christians, and oddly enough most of them grew up as Christians, as I did - but who turned their backs on the religion because of all the intolerance, cruelty and oppressive nature of the beast.

I found an article today about the persecution of LGBTI people in history, and much of it is clearly shown to be grounded firmly in Christian practice and doctrine. It's a very interesting read on the history of European Christian persecution of gay and transgender people - as well as the detestable oppression brought by missionary Christians wherever they spread to, in the name of so-called "Christian civilization". Disagree with me? Well, just ask the Maya - oh wait, you can't - they're all dead. Convenient.

If we look at the mentality of certain religious leaders in the Christian community today, not much has really changed in the past 500 years, has it? Just the world around it has.

Some will claim that all religions in SA are now equal, post 1996. Is that so? While Pagans might not be legally persecuted anymore, many people simply accused of being witches (whether they are or not) are murdered each year in South Africa's rural areas each year. Just a month ago, a Christian fundamentalist cashier at a Cape Town supermarket had a religious experience and ran screaming when she saw a pentacle necklace on a customer - and the story made international news. Jewelry stores throughout the country do not know what an ankh or a pentacle is, let alone stock them - yet they all have loads of crosses, crucifixes and stars of David in stock. Shopping centers prevent Pagan and esoteric stores from renting space in their buildings. Fanatics picket and harass Pagan shops, and intimidate the staff and owners - and sometimes customers browsing in few tiny under-stocked esoteric book sections in larger book stores. Some towns only have Christian schools, or schools where the religion is worked into the curriculum - what of the Pagan children who live there? Why does the government census not include Paganism/Wicca under the religious section? Why does the spell-checker on my PC not recognize the word Wiccan?

What gives some people the arrogance to think they have the right point fingers at me, demonize me as a transgender woman, as a lesbian, as an agnostic, or as a Wiccan, and to intimidate me and to force me to abandon my opinions, and my beliefs in favor of theirs? And how dare they interpret my resistance to their efforts as "persecution" of their religion?

As I have stated so many times before, I do not criticize or condemn the beliefs of others, or their right to believe whatever they choose, or to live their lives however they choose, provided they do no harm to others - but I most certainly oppose people who will work towards the detriment and destruction of other people because of their beliefs.

Consequently, I stand against the spiritual warfare committed against individuality, human rights and freedoms, liberty, equality and democracy - regardless of where those attacks come, be it Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Shinto, or Pagan - or anywhere else.

Everybody is human, and therefore everybody needs human rights and equality. If there is no equality, then someone is on top of the wheel, and someone at the bottom - and wheels are known to turn.

I should think everyone would prefer being equal.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bollocks And Bellyaching

This afternoon I saw an article posted by a transsexual sister activist about the failings of the alliance of the Pink Community. The article was very melodramatic, bordering on the hysterical. In fact, I feel it was nothing short of a load of bollocks and bellyaching.

GLB and I components of the Pink Community were labeled "captors" and "oppressors". And the remarks made on Facebook by the same activist as well as some others who agree with her were disappointing and rather disparaging - although she did take some fire for it.

There are too many comments in this thread for me to cover them all, but let me just state from the point of view of a civil rights activist, that to shun our allies and to withdraw from the broader movement is nothing less than folly and a tactical error.

Civil rights issues run on numbers - and as a minority within a minority, we are a little short on those. If there are people who feel there are shortcomings in assistance, commitment or delivery on the part of general GLBTI organizations to the T community (and yes, I know there are), then instead of whining about it and pulling out, "we" (that is, YOU all) should rather get involved in these organizations, and do it yourselves.

Before you judge me as being sarcastic, allow me to point out that I am post-op and I am the director of one GLBTI organization, as well as on the board of another. Somehow, all those GLBI people whom these two groups deal with - and with whom I come in contact, manage to see past my transsexuality, and we get the job done together.

If you want change in the world, you have to become that change.

As for the criticism of the transgender umbrella, the only thing I have to say about that is - live and let live. As we go through our discovery of human gender and sexuality it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no gender binary, just a range of gender expression.

With current research showing that only 5% of human population is exclusively homosexual and another 5% exclusively heterosexual - meaning everybody else is either ambiguous, bisexual or asexual, it has to be asked how anyone can still think that way.

It is easy for those of us who have had the luxury of surgery to sit back and be armchair critics - what about those without the means to pursue surgery? How DARE we criticize them for making peace with their bodies midway through their transition? HOW DARE we act like the very same bigots who make our lives a living hell every chance we get?

When we begin to dip our fingers in bigotry, prejudice and elitism - where do we draw the line?

Look at the bigger picture from the outside for a moment. How many of the feminist community thinks of a transsexual as a "real" woman? Often I encounter feminist women who regard transsexual females as fake, not real women, or a threat to womanhood. And they take pains to exclude us, believe me. What about the cis-gay lesbians who refuse to be associated with trans-lesbians?

There are many, many GLB and I people out there who oppose oppression of the transgender community. (And yes, transgender INCLUDES transsexuals as a group - look it up on wikipedia.)

My brothers and sisters - painting the entire GLBI movement as a failure, as "captors" and "oppressors" is not only bad for us, it's insulting, divisive, counter-productive - and it's a load of bollocks as well.

From the outside, bigots who hate all of us and wish us all dead, regardless of what letter we hang round our necks, are watching one group which they think are scum, discriminating against another group they also call scum. Fighting in a burning house never made sense to me. I hope it no longer makes sense to you.

We should not fall into the same trap of thinking we are somehow better or more special than others. Yes there are flaws in the GLBTI alliance. Fix them - don't make it worse.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cardboard Armor & Quicksand

I have little patience for religious fundamentalist bigots who jump up and wave their fingers, condemning me and those like me for who we are - and using flimsy and baseless religious rhetoric as a foundation for their hatred and prejudice. You're running into battle wearing cardboard armor and waving plastic swords! Go back to school and ask for a refund!

Prejudice kills. Don't you know that? Is your religion, whatever that is, fueled by hatred? Or is hatred your religion? It's not mine. Get over yourselves.

I address religious fundamentalists - that doesn't mean any specific religion... but since you bring it up - I'm a little peeved at people who make nasty remarks, thinking they can use religious beliefs as a soap box to stand on, and as a hammer to hit people with.

I'm very well aware that not all people of any particular religion feel the same way about anything, but once again, my comments are not directed at an entire group - just the fundamentalists. You aren't a fundamentalist, are you?

Let me just ask you, since when has hatred ever made sense? Whatever happened to "treat other people how you want to be treated" and "love others as you love yourself"? How about "Judge not, lest ye be judged"? Hypocritical bunch of finger-pointers. I find it laughable and obvious when the rules which they apply to us somehow just don't apply to them.

Be that as it may, too often the religiously intolerant set about destroying other people's self-esteem, dignity and lives by using their own beliefs as a sledge hammer to brutalize and to smash out their foundations - and then of course things start to get a little ugly, because at that point they open up their belief systems to scrutiny and attack - and just as any other religion or belief system, it cannot hold up against an assault of science, logic and reason - which cannot but fail to prove a religion.

I say this because if there was any single religion or belief system in existence which COULD prove itself as a FACT, beyond any doubt, then there would be absolutely no debate or question about the supremacy of that religion, nor any competition from another. And today there are a multitude of not only separate religions in the world, but each religion is itself divided into sects and cults of their own - each claiming to be the ONE true faith, and all others to be false. I think the conclusion here is pretty self-evident.

In this respect, my point would be that not one single religion today can claim with any legitimacy that it is "true", "factual" or "correct" - and truly expect to be taken seriously by a skeptical or questioning mind. Therefore any individual or group using religion as a tool or justification to destroy lives, is attempting to build its house on quicksand, so how can it expect to win any serious debate on such issues?

Of course, the most typical reaction when this is pointed out, or when people being victimized and brutalized by religious zealots stand up against their attackers - is that the persecutors suddenly paint themselves as the victims in astonishing and breathtaking displays of victim-blaming.

I respect people's beliefs, whatever they may be. The way I see it, what they believe is their business, not mine - the trouble is that too often they make it their business to know what it is I believe, or to try and force me believe what they believe. How often do we see the anti-equality pundits chipping away at democratic underpinnings, using irrational fear of diversity and beliefs differing from theirs as a "threat" to civilization, democratic values, and their "way of life"?

Perhaps there is something wrong with me for holding the view that all people should be treated equal before the law - even bigots and religious fundamentalists - and if people would just respect each other first, and then the fact that nobody believes EXACTLY the same thing - the world would be a lot more peaceful, and a better place for all of us to live in.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

EC Mirror Casts Poor Reflection

Some of you know that my city, Port Elizabeth, will be hosting its first ever Pride event this year - an event which I am proud to say I am involved in, be it in my own small way. ECGLA, an organization I am part of, stands behind the Nelson Mandela Bay Pride - which will take place on the 24th of September - with one or two smaller events on the side during the month leading up to the main event.

I have to say that so far I have been pleasantly surprised to note that there have been no negative encounters, nasty letters in the press, and no hate mail specific to the Pride event. In fact, we were even surprised and excited to learn how positive the public appears to be about Pride. Of course, there always has to be one bad apple in the basket, doesn't there?

Today I was forwarded an email reply to a request sent out to newspapers in our area to publicize an event which forms part of the run-up to Pride.

On Wed, Aug 17, 2011 at 11:18 AM, Ec Mirror Admin wrote:

"As far as I understand it, Pride is an organization which promotes and sympathises with the cause of Homosexuals. However, practising homosexuals are acting directly acting against God’s Holy Word as laid down in the Bible. So although we are not judging practising homosexuals, (God is the only judge of all our actions) we wish to try and live in accordance with God’s principles.

Therefore we will not be promoting this kind of function at all.
Please do not send us anything to do with Pride.
The Hope Clinic is a completely different issue, however, and we have tried our best to promote this for you because we feel the Hope Clinic does a huge amount of good work in the community. Congratulations on the Hope Clinic and we wish you all the best.

Thank You
The Publisher
EC Mirror"

After reading this letter, I wrote what I felt to be an appropriate response.

Dear EC Mirror,

Your response to a request for publicity of an event in NMB Pride has reference.

Pride is an event which promotes tolerance, equality and celebrates the human and civil rights of people who have suffered and still suffer daily prejudice and persecution - both in general society, as well as in their family and school and work situations - resulting from a lack of education and human rights values.

The NMB Pride is an event geared towards raising awareness of our existance as a community and our human rights shortcomings, while also building good will between the Pink Community and the rest of the Metro by means of peaceful social interaction while raising funds for local charities and generating tourism income for local businesses.

These goals are made all the more difficult by individuals who eagerly apply prejudice and discrimination without any apparent thought or justifiable reason, and by contradiction, simply encourage animosity - which is counterproductive and hampers nation-building.

Shouldn't the "EC Mirror", as a public newspaper, be concerning itself with publishing news and items of public interest in the Eastern Cape - instead of policing or censoring these? How do personal religious values have any relevance to reporting on events in the real world? Is the EC Mirror a church newsletter, or a real newspaper?

The Pink Community is part of the public too - and as tax-paying and contributing citizens of South Africa and residents of the Eastern Cape, we do not appreciate being discriminated against or having our dignity and equal worth as human beings impugned. Are you aware that unfair discrimination is illegal? Have you ever heard of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, No. 4 of 2000?

If this is the attitude of your publication, your publication has been poorly named - because then the "EC Mirror" does not give a true reflection of events in the Eastern Cape, but rather only a cherry-picked, cracked and distorted view excluding the reality that we live here too - and that we might also be interested in being informed of social events in our area which concern us.

By your criticism and refusal to publicize the item forwarded to you, your claim to "not judge" is proven to be a blatant lie - add to that the very fact that your email was unnecessary. Why reply with offensive remarks when you could just have ignored the Pride email - or kept it to a request to not be sent future material about the NMB Pride? Surely that would have sufficed?

By your own words and uncharitability, you mark yourself as a poor example for professional journalism - and in my opinion, your hypocrisy and piety are an embarrassment to people of your faith who do good for others and try to make the world a better place, instead of breaking down those who do.

Your statement regarding Hope Clinic is nothing less than an insult - for you imply that one form of community service by the Pink Community is "good work" while community service which benefits our own community is not - based simply on who we are and who we choose to help, in relation to your prejudice. It is my understanding that you were quite willing to promote our efforts to support Hope Clinic in the past - considering that the Hope Clinic is where it is today primarily because of the efforts of those who helped build and support it, and got it off the ground - who are members of the Pink Community - you demonstrate a very skewed view indeed.

In closing, your remarks demonstrate to me clear opposition to the human rights values enshrined in the SA Constitution, as well as a lack of compassion, ubuntu, common decency and good manners. Consequently, we will no longer consider the services of EC Mirror, as a free community newspaper, sufficient, appropriate or befitting our worthy cause - and therefore we as NMB Pride and ECGLA formally disassociate ourselves from you.

Christina Engela

Eastern Cape Gay & Lesbian Association: Director

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

System Failure

I think any system of government where human or civil rights depends wholly on the public opinion of the moment, is fundamentally flawed.

Where did that come from? Well, it goes back to before we had the present Constitution in South Africa, when as a teenager I was threatened with being labeled a criminal because being gay was illegal in this country then. That's right, I was threatened with jail because I dared to consider that I might not be your average heterosexual cisgender boy. And in those days, even being transgender was a very grey area in legal terms. Being caught in a raid dressed in womens clothing as a biological male was a risky business. It was "fine" to be a cross-dresser or drag queen busted at a gay club during a raid - but you better still have been wearing male underwear - or you would be thrown in jail for "impersonating a female". LOL. Go figure.

Society in the old South Africa used to persecute anyone with a pink tint to them, the armed forces experimented on gay service people and in some cases, tortured them. Churches blamed all manner of ills on us, more than some of them still do, and people would be victimized for who they were - losing their jobs, their homes, their dignity and even their lives. People today often talk about the Apartheid days, focusing exclusively on the struggle for racial equality, as if our persecution and exclusion from society never happened. These days, I hear very few speak about the struggle for our equality. Perhaps that's because it's not yet truly over?

Sometimes I actually hear people long for the old days when "everything still worked properly", when there was supposedly less government corruption - and well, there may have been - but not many people today will claim that the government intrudes as much into the private lives of its citizens as in those days. The simple truth of the matter is, we lived in a fascist state, and a theocracy. It was for all intents and purposes, a throwback from the Second World War - an Aryan state, where politics and social status were not only dictated by race, but also by language, religion, sexuality and gender. Anyone who longs for those days has got to be sick.

The solution, to my mind, is to build a new country, a new nation - where all these lines of division have disappeared. That is the foundation of the New South Africa - at least I thought it was?

Over the past few years - since I entered the field of human rights activism, I have seen people first opposing the extension of human rights and equality to me and people like me in the early 1990's, and then lamenting the rights we do have today, and then conspire and labor to deprive me of my equality before the law and my very human rights. It was a battle in the past to attain the rights we have now in South Africa, in many ways a "struggle", to use the popular South African revolutionary term - and it seems this struggle will continue for many years to come - in order to hold on to those rights. It seems to me that if we ever stop fighting for our rights, to protect them, if we relax and think everything is okay - we will be in for a nasty shock.

Our country's government continues to act unilatterally, and without seeing a need to heed the will of the people, to consider the Constitution - or to explain its actions to us - and even desires to conspire to hide its activities from us. Our government still has a very weak and poor grasp of the concept of democracy - a system which it feels is working just fine, just as long as the wind continues to blow in their favor. And yet this same government which is given its power and authority by the constitution which extends civil equality and human rights protections to me and those like me in this country, continues to show economic and political support to countries which wage open war against the same ideals which allow us to be treated as equals within their borders. People with open hatred for people like me continue to be appointed in high profile offices by no less than the President himself, and to be paid salaries from tax monies paid for by people like me. That's quite an insult, isn't it?

An advanced human rights friendly Constitution is fine and well - but what good is it if it is not put into practice? The government says it cherishes the principles in the SA Constitution, and yet acts in a manner which cannot be reconciled with that very Constitution.

I would love to hear the explanation for that one.

In America, it seems that human rights and equality continue to blow in the wind, being passed into law in various states, but perpetually under threat of being repealed depending on the weight of public opinion. Many in South Africa, most typically religious fundamentalists who share ties through so-called "church planting" and also share the same views with those human rights detractors who would even like the death penalty applied to two people of the same gender who engage in romantic relations. I know for certain they wish they could do the same here - a fact which is reflected in the utterances and efforts of those who would like nothing better than to rip out the paragraphs which grant civil rights to people like me from the SA Constitution. I have to wonder how some people think, I really do. I cannot understand how people who enjoy equality and full civil rights can presume to judge that other people, for no logical rhyme or reason, are not deserving of the same rights as they.

Equality should be embedded in the nation's Constitution, and not put up for debate every five minutes when some conservative half-wits get their knickers in a knot over X, Y or Z being allowed the same privileges as themselves.

I would go so far as to say that even if ONE person in a country is not afforded the same civil and human rights as others under the law of the land - then there is no equality. Either everyone is equal before the law - or there is no equality. Even a scientist will tell you that *wink*.

With continued debate in countries like the USA, where different states have different laws governing human rights for specific groups, such as the Pink Community, I believe the human rights of every individual - regardless of any identifying characteristic (gender, identity, sexual orientation, religion, culture etc) should be passed into federal law or the US Constitution - instead of having different laws in each state, and individual states being able to repeal these laws every time enough money or noise is raised around the issue by conservatives. Human rights are human rights and not some ticket to be used every time elections come round.

Right wing human rights abusers have done their level best to sabotage human rights by attempting to pass DOMA into federal law - why does "someone" in the USA not launch a campaign to get the human rights, fair and equal treatment for all entrenched in the US Constitution instead? Why not pass a new Ammendment?

The new darling of the Teabaggers, Michele Bachmann, actually makes Sarah Palin look almost intelligent. I shudder to think of the USA under her, should she win the election - it will be another Bush administration - an unmitigated disaster for human rights and equality. If she wins at all it will be because a) she is white (playing on the politics of race being negatively applied around Obama) and b) female (let's give the girls a chance - who cares if she's an anti-choice, anti-feminist, hang-the-gays teabagger?). As a human rights activist, I find her remarks against Pink rights and women's rights nauseating. People like that give Christians, and Americans a bad name.

The failure of modern "democracies" in this respect harks back to the feudal system, where people were born into class systems, slavery and castes - where "nobles" ruled by the right of their birth and nobody born of lower classes could expect any upward mobility. How is this in any way different to a society which discriminates against people simply because of who they are?

I have little time for people who operate under the assumption that they are somehow more deserving, or better than others, especially me.

Debating human rights is fine, it helps people to actually think for a change - but putting the equality of some people with what is considered the norm up for a vote every other day - is both contrary to human rights ethics and ethos - undemocratic, and insulting. All people SHOULD be considered equal before the law in order for a country to be considered truly democratic. And any country that does so while claiming to be democratic and to have the interests of ALL its people at heart is, quite simply, full of it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bread And Circuses

Last week I had the pleasure of having to get up really early for work, at around 4am, when all the respectable birds were still asleep. It was while having breakfast a little later that I heard something faint in the night, a kind of singing chant in the distance that reminded me of a Muslim call to prayer. I really had to strain my hearing to pick it up, as the very light wind at that time of morning affected it, and it faded in and out. It seemed to me that it might very well be that, from one of the mosques in the old part of town somewhere. I began to wonder if I was imagining it, but no, there it was, for a whole 2 or 3 minutes. It brought a smile to my face as I wondered why I had never heard it before.

I heard it the next morning too, while having breakfast, confirming to me that I had not imagined it. At the end of the week, I received an email notice that some people in my area (Richmond Hill) were angry about the "disturbance" coming from North End so early in the morning and were drawing up a petition about it. I was stunned. Could people really be so small and anal about such things? Apparently so.

First, North End is several kilometers away from Richmond Hill - and second, if you are asleep in Richmond Hill at 4am you certainly will not be woken up by that. We are not talking about a racket or a din here, not by any means. And it's not as if it continues until daybreak, or for longer than a few minutes. In short, you basically have to be awake to hear it, so what is the problem? On the other hand, there is really no pleasing some people, is there? I have to wonder about the potential double-standards being applied here by this individual. He lives in Richmond Hill, which as all the locals know, has a Christian church virtually on every corner, and so come every Sunday morning, the sound of bells ringing hardly raises an eyebrow. Which makes my point - why does this fellow not launch a petition to silence those as well?

Or is it a case of "I am a Christian - I can hear church bells ringing from where I live"? Is that perhaps what is bothering him? Does hearing a Muslim call to prayer from your breakfast table make me a Muslim? No? Does it wake me up when I'm trying to sleep? No? See my puzzlement? Live and let live, fella. I don't see any need to complain unless you live right next door, and unless the house next to you suddenly sprouted a minaret without checking with you and your neighbors first.

Cleaning ladies around the country are protesting on Women's Day because they are being paid a minimum wage of less than 2000 zar. Yes, it is shocking, I agree. I couldn't imagine surviving on that kind of money per month. No wonder they call it "peanuts". Of course, when you consider that people who do work that requires more mental and educational skill earn around 4000 per month, how do you justify it? Ah, now it gets tricky, because nobody wants to do dirty work, do they? Pay them a little more and they might actually stop moaning for a while and smile for a change.The only problem is it's never enough, is it? With all the crippling strikes we've seen in the past six months alone, it's amazing the economy hasn't failed yet. The one strange thing about this little item that makes me mutter "only in South Africa" is the main motivation for an increase appears to be that some of these women need to support up to nine children on their small wages. Right. Whose fault is that? Did anyone force them to have nine kids? Is that the employers fault? Aren't there plentiful supplies of condoms and other contraceptive agents available in our "condomwise" country? Doesn't our wise all-knowing government encourage children to get pregnant in order to get the 250 zar per child per month grant to avoid working? What gives, folks, and where do you draw the line?

Women's Day is a nice, touching gesture, isn't it? Sure, everyone could use another day off - but does it really mean anything to women? Is it a reminder that things need to be done in this country to create equity between the sexes socially, economically and politically, or is it just an opportunity to flood the news with images of women partying at public events toasted by prominent government figures talking about doing it? I tend to agree with the women who stayed away from these events - saying that they feel it won't help them in the least. They need action, not talk. The government has been talking for years, and still they are no better off.

Women and children are lumped together under with the disabled folks in one big government ministry, as if being young or female is also a social disadvantage. I don't know... is it? I think this "patriarchal culture" I heard about on the news tonight again, needs a swift kick up the caboose - a reminder to hubby dearest that respect has to be earned, not just given on say-so - and that if he wants to sleep peacefully at night he needs to remember that peaceful sleep is a condition of fair and equal treatment of the other. It's time there was an end to the incompetence and corruption leading to rape and hate-crime cases being postponed repeatedly and delayed for up to three years and court documents and dockets conveniently disappearing while the rights of people - of all sexualities and genders - are trampled.

Yes, most companies are employing more females, even in roles traditionally occupied by males - but not because they are better workers, but because on average, they pay us less. Sad but true. Equity? Really? Equal pay for equal work, I say. Now that's equality. What does the equipment between your legs have to do with the quality or quantity of work a person can deliver? Unless we are speaking about the sex industry, I can't see how it matters half a damn. Can you? Fix that before bragging about how women have been advanced every single Women's Day, okay? It's getting repetitive.

The Emperors of Rome feared the power of the common citizen, and they feared they would be toppled by uprisings or other political forces fueled by dissatisfaction with their rule. They placated the mob by providing distractions - wars, campaigns - but more importantly, entertainment. They laid on expensive games in the arena, lavish events - and this entertainment saved their rule on many occasions. Free bread and circuses lulled and sussed the noisy infants upon whom the ruling classes depended back to their somnambulant existence. I can't help but wonder at the similarity between this ancient principle and current events such as Women's Day, Freedom Day, Youth Day. Make a few of the right noises, and the crying baby goes back to sleep and all is right with the world for a while again.

The next thing on my list of peeves is our friend Juliaas. Yesterday was supposed to be "D-Day for Juju" - at least, according to the ANC and all the papers too - and what happened? Nothing. N - O - thing. "Postponed indefinitely" they said on the news last night.

This past few days, the ANC made a big thing about Malema being brought to book for his loose-canon activities, running his mouth off and generally acting as if he was an actual government figure etc, before senior party leadership yesterday - and in the evening news a spokesperson said it was "postponed, perhaps indefinitely" supposedly in the interests of party unity. Right.

Of course, he's won. How else could this blatant and obvious capitulation be interpreted? Friend Zuma doesn't dare go against him - because he realizes that if he does, Juliaas could just start his very own little political party - and all the crazy, ignorant and racist youth supporting the ANC would follow him, making it even more obvious that the ruling party is an apartment block being carved up and sold ala sectional title to the highest bidder. Check mate.

The simple truth is that the senior party members cannot go against him or be seen to put him in his place, because they will risk disunity in the party, or a complete breakaway of the youth league and his supporters from the main body of the ANC and the tripartite alliance. The COPE breakaway in 2009 was a costly lesson to the ruling party, one they clearly do not wish to repeat. It might seem to them after all, to be an even bigger embarrassment to the ANC than hurling racist abuse at a journalist in front of TV cameras.

It seems that Juliaas has pretty much won this battle - he's defied calls by reasonable people to have him removed as leader of the ANC Youth League for several years now. Despite every shenanigan this chap gets up to, no matter how embarrassing, no matter how insensitive, he still weathers the storms he creates - and in his post as youth leader too. What's to stop his rise to leadership of the ANC, and even the presidency? And then clinging to power for 30 years? We know how it works on our continent by now, don't we? Barnacles clinging to the hull of the ship, stealing streamlining and energy from its progress through the oceans of common sense. He is after all, Bob Mugabe's understudy, isn't he? His overtly fanatic, communist and racist followers have already cried they will stop at nothing to see that he is allowed to continue sowing chaos and discord wherever he goes, making idiotic, irresponsible and divisive comments about nationalizing mines and farms and banks. It seems they actually believe they will be better off for it if it happens. Poor fools.

Enjoy the last days of democracy in SA folks. Communism and socialism are on their way, barring a miracle or two. Before long, things like "there's no such thing as transgender or gay in Sepedi" may become slogans, then policy.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Never Say Never

Couple of things that happened this week bug me. Unfortunately, I am currently hip-deep in work, and so haven't been able to write an article till now. However, when something bugs me long enough, my thoughts tend to stew over them for a while, until I just have to get it all down and post it.

Anyone notice how closely the govt's new demand on the mining companies to hand out shares to local communities in their areas (and failure to comply will lead to asset seizures), resembles nationalization?

Business is business. At least, I always thought it was. The mining companies lease or own the land, and they keep to government prescriptions on how to mine safely etc etc. Being told to just hand over part ownership of their operation to "the people" is neither fair, nor part of a free-market system, nor a democracy. Nor is just issuing an ultimatum to comply "or else". This is more in line with communist-fascist or socialist ideology.

Didn't Julius Malema make loads of noise about nationalizing mines in SA a while back? Didn't the ANC say "categorically" that it would "never happen"? Well what would you call this, other than the same thing spelled differently? It's classic redistribution of existing wealth instead of generating new wealth. What will happen when there is no more existing wealth left to redistribute? Will they then look at the private sector, properties, homes, cars, bank accounts? It happened in every other former colony in Africa, give or take one or two "civil" wars. Hmm. It's no secret - I'm not a big fan of the current administration.

Instead of providing services and effecting job and wealth-creation to the people, the ANC now seems intent forcing private companies to give away part of their company ownership to do it instead. As if current lessons that should be learned are going unnoticed. Then again, they probably are. I'm also referring to so-called "land restitution". Farms are being bought off non-white farmers, and given or sold to landless black folks by the government. While this may seem like an incredibly noble thing, what happens is that the new owners have no clue how to farm, manage the intricate business that is agriculture, and pretty soon, a productive farm becomes a white elephant that produces nothing at all - hence why our country is for the first time in a century or more, importing food it was until recently able to grow for itself. So much for learning - but then, given the shocking state of our so-called education department, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

Then there is the shocking racist policy of affirmative action or "BEE" still in effect in this country - which awards jobs to people of one race while depriving people of another simply based on racial characteristics. How is this any better than South Africa per-1994? Oh wait, I know - because the formerly disadvantaged are now the currently advantaged, that's why. Some justice that is - punishing subsequent generations of kids finishing school who were never around to inflict injustice upon those in power, who are now neither disadvantaged, nor poor - unlike the majority of their own group which still somehow languishes in abject poverty and gripes and grumbles in the shacks and poorly-built RDP housing. Everywhere the hot topic is "transformation" and "right-sizing", with some government departments imploding because of corruption and incompetence to comply with BEE. But that's not racism, no.

How about High Commissioner Qwelane - ordered 2 months ago to make apology to the Pink Community by the Equality Court? Has he paid his fine? Has he apologized for his hate speech? Has he been removed from his post by the SA government who claims to cherish the constitution and the constitutional protections for the group he offended and threatened - and who face violence in the country in which he represents South Africa? No, the whole works are being held up again by legal maneuvers. You should fire that man, Mr Zuma - his occupancy in the office of High Commissioner is an affront to every South African citizen who cherishes the Constitution and the principles of a free and open equal opportunity society - and who pay tax for his salary - and yours.

How about Juliaaaas and his "Homegate" scandal? I don't know about you, but this whole ruckus surrounding his 16 million rand house under construction and his implication in accusations of pay-offs in return for awarding tenders just smacks of the same odor as the Arms Scandal. And how about his complaining about the "fat cats" living off the cream of the land while the poor languish in abject poverty - and still support him in his quest for power and even more riches? Oh, the irony.

Think it will affect his chances of becoming the next prez of South Africa? President Malema? Many would also say that would "never happen", but then again they said the same thing about Zuma becoming president back in 2006. It just goes to show that some things will "never happen" - until they do.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Depression is a problem, and there are people who suffer from it for perfectly good medical reasons. Then there are people who have a little disappointment at home, in the office, who have issues with their appearance or who have a little bad luck in relationships. Their car breaks down for the fifth time in a week and they want to end it all. Their boss tramples on their feelings a little and they want to eat a 9mm Aspirin. Seriously?

There are people imprisoned in a body that is so broken they don't even have the choice of ending it all. There are those without hope of anything worth having here, life, love, health, happiness - and let's just say wealth and worldly goods are the least of their concerns. There are people who can pop a pill or seek medical intervention to get them out of their depression or circumstances. Then there are people who really can do nothing but face the lousy bitch of a hand life has dealt them - and like it or lump it, they have no more choices or options. What the hell are YOU whining about?

Let me offer you some advice from an old fool. No matter how bad things feel, or seem to be, no matter how much you hurt, or how much you hunger, or how many bitter, bitter tears you cry, or how many times you pound your fists - or your head - into a concrete wall... it could always, ALWAYS be worse. And even though you feel hurt and broken now, you aren't. You're still here, you're still warm, you're still fed, you're still clothed, your body still works, and you have hope. Hope keeps you going. You are not beaten. You can still do something about it. Pick another battle, one you can win. And even if you feel you can't get any lower, you have hit rock bottom - all that just means you now have only one direction to go. Up. So get off your ass, stop complaining, and get on with it - start climbing.

So what if someone doesn't want you or love you? There are others out there who will. Trust me, the world is full of lonely desperate people. It's nice to have someone to hold you when you cry, to rub your back and dry your tears, but it's not always possible. Sometimes life takes us on a merry dance along a dark, rocky and winding road and we really feel alone. Perhaps we are. But what is the point of giving up? If you think you're a loser now, hun - just stop trying - then you WILL be.

People often talk about those who depend on you, and their need of you in their lives as if that is more important than your own pain or sorrow. That's because it is. There's more to living than just making yourself happy and partying all the time. Making a difference in the lives of others, bringing light to their darkness, and alleviating their suffering lightens your own load. Sometimes all it takes is just being there.

Stop asking why people don't love you or want you - and set out to make yourself so desirable and happy within yourself that they will have little choice but to. Stop whining that you are useless, and set out to prove to yourself and the world that they cannot do without you. Stop crying that you want to die because you are unhappy and unfulfilled, and set out to make the life you have as fulfilling and happy as you can. Stop blubbering about how unfair life has treated you, get up and be the change you want to see in the world.

If you quit now, you will be giving up on any happiness that may still come your way, any betterment you may yet still achieve. As bad as you feel now, do you not wish to feel better?

There's more to life than sorrow, self-pity and regret. There's more to existence than your pain and your need. There's more to your life and your existence than just YOU.