Monday, May 30, 2011

Bed-knobs And Broomsticks

If people today think of anyone who is sexual, or who enjoys sex, as "immoral", "deviant" or "undesirable" today - it is because of religious indoctrination. If we think of people who abstain from all sexual activity, and those who remain virginal through their lives, living by a code that sex is for procreation and not enjoyment, it is because of the puritan hangover left us by folks who were too afraid to see themselves naked lest it cause them to think sinful thoughts - and with an obsession about the afterlife and where they would spend it - instead of enjoying and celebrating the life they had.

Older civilizations did not suffer this afliction. Historians can bear me out when I say that the Roman, Egyptian and Greek civilizations did not fall because they were sexually wanton by today's "Christian" standards, or because they were "morally corrupt" or "sinful". In fact, Rome fell because it had become militarily weak, and ironically enough, at this time the state religion was Catholicism. Hmm.

Many people today spend a great deal of time meddling in the lives of others, working to limit their options, delineate their freedoms, and suspend their liberties - and they do so from a blatant and overt hyper-religious angle, attempting to force other people to embrace the same litany and adhere to the same liturgy as they hold to themselves. Of course, we all should know that not everyone is the same, looks the same or feels the same about everything, so why should people all be forced to think, feel, believe and speak or act the same way? And how can one group, in all fairness decide that IT should be the model which all others should adopt and be held accountable to?

If Christians today are so truly confident in the ability of their God to protect their interests, then why do they persist in taking matters into their own hands and working to destroy the lives and happiness of others? Is this not an admission of their fear and paranoia? Is it not a manifest denial of their own faith? Is this desire to act in the stead of their god not a denial of the very will of this deity?

By this I mean - if this deity really wanted something bad to happen to people who they feel do not keep their commandments, then surely this god is big enough and almighty enough to sort them out on its own without their getting involved and getting a thrill out of dipping their hands in the blood of innocents - and then afterwards crying that it was "God's will". Much of the tragedies of the past can be traced to this sort of vanity and hubris, including all the Crusades, and the Spanish/Catholic conquest/genocide of the South American continent. All of this was aside from the pretext of nationalistic expansion, an exercise in Christianism - the desire of Christians to conquer non-Christian people and force them into subjective slavery and to convert them to Christianity, to force people to believe the way they do. It was nothing more than a bad game of "my god is better than your god", but with sharp spikes - and I dare you to tell me different.

Broadly speaking, most average Christians today still know nothing at all about other religions, which makes it that much easier for those who know only slightly more than them about other faith groups to manufacture and spread propaganda and falsehood about them, causing polarization, even more ignorance and enmity. And the vicious circle just gets bigger and bigger.

In most South African schools today, children are not being encouraged to think, and to think independently. Instead they have religion - and mostly one specific religion, Christianity - and conservative thoughts drummed into them to conform, conform, conform. They are not being educated, but indoctrinated.

A friend wrote to me just last week about his views on schooling in South Africa, and on its effects on the youth leaving school today. We have children able to work in an office, or in many cases, barely capable of entering university or to qualify in their fields of study without the benefit of huge concessions for being "previously disadvantaged" - while perfectly capable high-scoring students are prevented from entering university because they happen to be the currently disadvantaged. Surprisingly, some people actually believe that racism is dead in South Africa, but I have no idea why. Be that as it may, we have kids hitting the job market who know how to read, write or type in "Mxit language", but who cannot spell, use correct grammar, or understand or explain what they have just read. We have loads of new voters who join the mass of consituents each year who have no clue how a democratic process is supposed to work, and will fall for any load of twaddle, including threats that if they do not vote for party X, then they will come and burn their house down. This is what my friend wrote:

"MENTALITY! It serves a purpose you know, for those in power. "We want the people to get an education" - but not too much. Just enough to get them working and in a job where we can make even more money from their taxes. But not so much that they wake up and embrace a truly multicultural society free from oppression in any form. Because thats when they stop voting ANC. They might think they are free because they voted right? Sorry -not so."

I agree completely with this assessment - it's not in the interests of the govt to educate the masses to the point where they are smart enough to see through the BS - because then people will be too smart to vote for them again.

That's exactly why subjects like history and philosophy have been played down in recent years - and also why there is little attention given to the study of human rights, and the mechanics of democracy. School leavers in most cases today I think are people who leave school able to work, not think - and certainly not capable of making informed decisions of their own.

These children grow up, and they take the misconceptions they learn in school into the world outside it, into the workplace, and their new homes when they leave the nest, and into their social circles when they form new friendships - and they take with them the bigoted misconceptions they are taught in some schools.

Back when I was at high school I can remember the rumor going round of "the Rapture" being imminent, and the reaction of the hyper-religious kids who were at school with me. Of course, the appointed day and time came and went, and we were all still here. Just last week much was made of yet another date with destiny that failed to materialize, leaving a generous helping of pie on the faces of many fundamentalist Christians. Apparently they have moved the next appointment to 21 October now. Surely by now they should realize that the business of predicting the end of days is a bust?

I wonder, are these people in such a hurry for the end of the world that they keep pinning these dates on their calendar like a game of pin the tail on the donkey? Are their lives so empty, pointless and hopeless that they long to be taken away from it all? Most of them would deny this, I'm sure - but I think the facts speak otherwise.

Just last week I wrote about the whole Rapture racket, and about the total fabrication it is - and it was mostly argument on the topic supplied by Christian theologians that I referred to. I spoke about how the radicals and fundamentalists have spent centuries separating themselves and their flocks from the rest of us dirty sinners, and about how the hyper religious elevate themselves above others, tarring and feathering those who don't carry the same club-cards, as deviants, threatening, dangerous, and also quite often as "devil-worshipers". LOL.

Coming from a portion of the community that likes to exclude others from it, separate itself from others, the "Rapture" is naturally the ultimate exclusion.

Of course, being equated with other folks who don't carry the same cards they do just pisses them off. How dare we dirty gay or trans people be made equal with them? We're not - they're God's chosen people and we're dirt. The fundies don't like the fact that people point out the instances when they overstep the boundaries of fairplay and the constitutional guarantees which grant freedom of religion - they take issue with everything not of their own interpretation of a religion, or which doesn't share their values - failing to realize the harm they do to others in doing so, and failing to understand that they do NOT own the world, nor do they have the right to talk down to others simply because they believe they have a right to trample every other group into the earth.

Where does this delusion of "divine right" come from? The truth? They call it the "Great Commission", which is where the "Commissionist" and "Dominionist" movements came from. These two movements today form the spine of the modern evangelical movements - and you won't catch them speaking about it blatently or openly too often, because they don't want ordinary Christians to realize what they are or what they are goading them into doing - playing a game of "Pinky and the Brain".

The simple truth is folks, Christians have had control of the world for so long that today they have forgotten what its really like to be victimized, persecuted and to be a second class citizen because of their religion or spirituality, and they view any other group coming up to the same level as them as a threat and a challenge to their supremacy. That's why some of them can whine and moan like old women with wet knickers about "the persecuted church" every time a store stops selling their propaganda, a TV station says something they don't like, a gay couple gets married, or a transgender person gets treated like a human being instead of getting kerb-stomped. Please, spare me.

Having a gay person or a Muslim being treated equal to them is taken as a threat and an insult. In the work place, Christian prayers are encouraged or approved, but what would happen should they be expected to tolerate the same standard for their co-workers of other faiths? I have to say that I have a great respect for many Muslim people who sit through such things with a good grace - and I have to ask myself if some of my Christian friends would do the same?

Don't get me wrong, every religious group has it's fundamentalists, the ugly face of any religion that foams at the mouth at the mere thought of diversity and the freedom to disagree. To many of them, true equality is a threat and an enemy, because being equal robs them of their power and the feeling of being part of an elite group. It seems to me that modern Christian thought is all about separation and the creation of an elite. And in doing so, there is an increasing focus on "us" and "them", polarization and the creation of scapegoats for all the world's ills. The "us" portion of the equation is almost always a very narrow definition, quite ironic, don't you agree?

And if - like me, you happen to fall within that very broad definition of "them", then the world looks like a very bleak place indeed.

Fundamentalists view all non-Christian faiths as being false, misled, and focusing on the Devil, Satan or whatever form they choose to call their deepest fears - and thus every other religion is painted not as simply another equal religion that deserves as much tolerance and respect within the law of the land as their own - but as a threat, a vile perversion, and simply another face of "satanism" that should be discouraged, denied, and stamped out. The line crossing of course, comes in where certain groups cease to grumble, plot and conspire, and instead begin to act on these impulses to destroy and suppress free thought, freedoms and independence of their view of the world.

Normally I take the view that my religion is nobody's business - especially when I feel that someone else's belief system is being forced on me. Currently some of my Christian "friends" have serious issues with me for being Pagan, and even more so for not being ashamed of it. How dare I be happy for not being Christian - or even proud of my spiritual beliefs? How dare I disagree with them? How dare I not share in their mindset and not just rubberstamp everything arbitrarily as "good" and "right" simply because they agree with it? Oh, it's a futile argument, I know - because I realise they are incapable of thinking for themselves.

A little while ago, I changed my religious affiliation from agnostic to Pagan. "Agnostic" had been just fine apparently - but the new change certainly rubbed a few people the wrong way. It's amazing. Over the past few months things have steadily degraded to the point where people who used to associate closely with me now ignore me, won't greet me - and get up and leave when I enter a room. There is an atmosphere for certain, and I haven't felt so much love since I came out as transgender a decade ago. I have often said I can be friends with anybody, regardless of their race, language, culture, whether they like Star Wars or Star Trek, or of their religion. I am not intimidated by the beliefs of others, and I am secure in my own spirituality to not be "converted" by others just by hanging around with them. I certainly don't get a chip on my shoulder if I find out one of my Hindu friends has suddenly become a devout Roman Catholic or married a Jehovah's Witness (although if I see them coming with a stack of magazines under one arm, you can bet I will bolt myself in the ladies room for a while).

Of course, I have to note quite clearly that this is not all of the religious people I associate with - and certainly not all the Christians I associate with - but just a very few. I have to wonder that, had I announced my religion as "Wicca" - how they would have reacted then? I could imagine. As usual, I treat everything with a touch of humor, because the alternatives to laughing at such childishness are not nearly as funny.

I'm not sure what to expect this week, but in the meantime I have bought a new, completely black coffee mug to take to the office - just to mess with them...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Blasphemous Rumors

I know I have been quiet lately, but it's just because I've taken the weekend off. Honest. Rumors of my being raptured are greatly exaggerated - in fact, I am still here, and so is my underwear drawer, which still needs tidying. Damn.

I am typing this article on the morning of Sunday 22 2011. I am still here, and so is the house I live in - and the cars parked outside tell me the businesses across the road are doing their usual booming breakfasting business. The city around me is not on fire and there haven't been any tsunamis during the night. My mother woke up this morning, as usual, and shuffled past my door - so I knew she was still here. All is right with the world then.

As I expected, the May 21 "rapture" was a bust. Partly I was a little disappointed, because I had accepted invitations to several events on Facebook, such as the "Post-Rapture Party" and the "Post-Rapture Looting", which I admit, I had been looking forward to a little. In fact, I already had been eying those fancy cars some of the folks from Harvest and Word of Faith drive around in - unless they took to selling or giving them away in anticipation of being "raptured" of course. Hehe. I can only imagine the arguments to follow.

Be that as it may, it is now May 22, and nope, no Rapture. Some of you, a very few, may wonder what this "Rapture" is supposed to be. My mother, who has been a Christian her whole life, is one of them. Simply put, the Rapture is supposed to be the start of the end times, when all the "good Christians" vanish from the Earth, cars and planes crash with nobody to fly them, to be taken to God, Jesus, Heaven etc. People just disappear, leaving behind perhaps no more that a set of empty clothes and maybe a half-eaten hot-dog - which has prompted some folks to attempt some interesting pranks!

The Rapture supposedly leads up to the rise of the "anti-Christ" and ultimately the end of the world - because, as everyone knows, civilization simply could not exist without the Conservatives.

What is this Rapture? Why have we never heard of it prior to about 30 years ago, is it even a "Christian" concept - where did it come from - and why do people spell it with a capital 'R'? Why does it seem to be an obsession of the "modern" Church - i.e. that part of Christianity which is normally focused on discriminating against others and persecuting and excluding them?

Perplexed by the recent fracas on the interwebs about this "Rapture", and it's perpetual failure to realize - much to the embarrassment of many modern Christians, I decided to do a little digging.

One source I found says "Almost all Christians are interested in prophecy. This is especially true if the prophecies show what will happen to Christians themselves." Now for my part, "prophecy" is tantamount to visiting my local seer, witch, or psychic for a good old tarot reading - and judging the track record of so-called "prophecy" over the past few centuries, about as accurate and subjective to free will.

The author is quick to point out that "the word “Rapture” is not found in the King James translation." [The King James version is the "holy grail" of the religious right groups filled to the brim with fanatical fundamentalists who like to take the 'fun' out of life and persecute other groups they don't like very much - such as us for instance. I wonder how many of them know that King James himself, who commissioned it, was gay?] "There is also no single word used by biblical authors to describe the prophetic factors that comprise the doctrine." [It is supposedly based upon several passages in the bible, such as those in that scary last chapter.] "Its formulation came about by means of inductive reasoning." [I.e. it is made from assumption and theory based on the conjecture and hearsay that comprises the whole of Christian doctrine and scripture.]

The same source, as well as Wikipedia point out in different ways that "The modern expression “Rapture” has been invented to explain the overall teaching and the term suits the subject well. The basic tenets of the doctrine are simple. It purports that Christ will come back to this earth in two phases. He will first return secretly to rapture His church away from this world so that they might escape the Great Tribulation to occur at the end of the age. Christ then returns in a visible advent to dispense His wrath on the world’s nations." and "There are many views among Christians regarding the timing of Christ's return (including whether it will occur in one event or two), and various views regarding the destination of the aerial gathering described in 1 Thessalonians 4."

Brian M. Schwertley, an author who has studied this alarmingly recurrent feature of evangelical madness writes: "One of the most popular teachings today in Evangelical and Charismatic churches is the doctrine of the pretribulation rapture." He states further, that: "Although the pretribulation rapture doctrine is very popular and is even considered so crucial to Christianity that it is made a test of a person’s orthodoxy in some denominations, Bible colleges and seminaries, the exegetical and theological arguments used by its advocates are all classic cases of forcing one’s theological presuppositions onto particular texts (eisegesis). The purpose of this brief study is to show that the pretribulation rapture theory is not plainly taught or directly stated in any place in Scripture, cannot be deduced from biblical teaching, contradicts the general teaching of the Bible regarding Christ’s second coming and was never taught in any branch of the church prior to 1830."

In fact, he concludes: "Although the pretribulation rapture theory is very popular today, given arguments that are offered in support of this doctrine we must declare Pretribulationalism to be contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture. Simply put, there is not one shred of evidence that can be found in the Bible to support the pretribulation rapture. The typical Pretribulational arguments offered reveal a pattern: of imposing one’s presuppositions onto a text without any exegetical justification whatsoever; of finding subtle meaning between words and/or phrases that were never intended by the author; of spiritualizing or ignoring passages that contradict the Pretribulational paradigm; and, of imposing Pretribulationalism upon passages that actually teach the unity of the eschatological complex (i.e., the rapture, second coming, general resurrection, and general judgment all occur on the same day—the day of the Lord). It is our hope and prayer that professing Christians would cast off this escapist fantasy and return to the task of personal sanctification and godly dominion." Numerous other sources have added their commentary over the years, including Bob Price, another author who wrote about it in his book "The Paperback Apocalypse".

And yet, despite all the logical and even theological reasoning applied by many Christians themselves on this topic to show why it isn't rational or even provable biblically and scripturally, there are at least as many who accept it as a given fact in the face of all the counter-arguments, and calling it faith. Hmm. Faith is an interesting topic. I could have faith in the Cookie Monster, or the Boogie Man - doesn't make either of them more real - but the effects of that faith could be made real by my faith. What I mean by that is, there might not be an actual Boogie Man under my bed, or in my recently vacated closet - but my faith in it being there might prevent me from looking, or going in there alone at night *wink* - if you get my meaning?

Despite this theory which has been the topic of intense debate in church circles as far back as I can remember, the topic of several movies which I realize were about as fanciful as any episode of Stargate I ever watched, if less convincing, it has never done anything positive at all for the Christian faith - aside from swelling its ranks - but with the fearful, gullible and blatantly stupid.

A vehicle proclaiming Judgment Day to be May 21, 2011, drives through New Orleans, La.

I would call this a negative effect, because people who go around making jack-rabbit assumptions and public statements on mass media, and running misinformation campaigns based on the lunacy of self-proclaimed "prophets of the End Times" - cheapens and mocks everyone else who by association is seen to be, or identifies as a Christian too.

Do you think I'm being too critical?

Oh fine, it's perfectly alright to believe in a religion - you won't catch me condemning people's right to believe whatever they want, their right to question it and to apply a healthy amount of curiosity or even skepticism - but to believe in anything blindly is at least as dangerous as driving the same way. It's perfectly acceptable to believe and even expect that one day this faith may manifest in a certain way - i.e. that they may be taken away into Heaven one day - but to sell all your possessions and to sit waiting on a street corner for it to actually happen? Surely nobody is that far gone?

Oh, but you'll be surprised.

Every so often some "prophet" comes along and sets a date for the Rapture to take place - and surprisingly - astonishingly, people fall for it every time. Hordes of them, by the bus-load.

For the past few months I have heard reports of people selling off their worldly goods, or giving them away, even quitting their jobs, because they believed the Rapture would happen on May 21 2011. Here is an American (naturally) website for a business that promises to care for the owner-less pets left behind after the Rapture for a period of at least ten years. That's right. An actual business - and they already have like actual clients! Of course, you might admit that it is a pretty clever scheme by atheists to get free money off fundamentalist Christians who will 'obviously' fall for anything *wink*. Perhaps I should start a company to sell "Rapture" insurance? Would it be legal? Who knows - but probably only in America.

Info sites on the web have people asking if businesses like Home Depot sell "Rapture Preparation Kits" *face palm*. Seriously? Sure why not - you might find them on the shelf right next to the "Vampire Slaying Kits", and "Demonic Exorcism Kits".

In recent times, there have been numerous dates set by "prophets" who announced the "End Times" and the coming of the "Rapture".

"1844 - William Miller predicted Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844, then revised his prediction, claiming to have miscalculated Scripture, to October 22, 1844. The realization that the predictions were incorrect resulted in a Great Disappointment. Miller's theology gave rise to the Advent movement. The Baha'is believe that Christ did return as Miller predicted in 1844, with the advent of The Báb, and numerous Miller-like prophetic predictions from many religions are given in William Sears book, Thief in The Night." As many as 100,000 Millerites took to the mountains to wait for the end of the world. Of course, it can be assumed that they came back down again, considerably poorer, and hopefully a little wiser. Rapture Hysteria - and the foot-shuffling sessions afterwards - are therefore clearly not actually a new thing.

"1914, 1918, 1925, 1942 - Dates set for the end by the Jehovah's Witnesses"

1975 - another Jehovah's Witness prediction resulted in many people in the USA selling their homes. "The idea of people changing their financial situation in advance of Jesus’ return was even discussed on ABC’s “The View” program, as co-host Sherri Shepherd explained how she thought the world was ending in 1975, according to a prediction by Jehovah’s Witnesses, with many people selling their homes. Shepherd said: “It’s not a good thing because I didn’t pay a lot of my bills and I got into a lot of debt because I thought – I would write a check and I’d go, ‘Well, the world’s going to end. I don’t need money in the bank.’ And you know what? The world never ended and I had to pay these creditors off. It took a long time.”

Her fellow hosts on the show turned the issue into a joking matter, with Joy Behar saying, “So maybe the rumor’s put out by real-estate agents. You ever think of that?” “You’re onto something,” responded Elisabeth Hasselbeck. “Maybe this is the new stimulus package because maybe this will actually boost our economy.”

Hmm... you never know, do you? At any rate, 1975 wasn't the last time this happened. In "1981 - Chuck Smith predicted that Jesus would probably return by 1981.

1988 - Publication of 88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988, by Edgar C. Whisenant.

1989 - Publication of The final shout: Rapture report 1989, by Edgar Whisenant. More predictions by this author appeared for 1992, 1995, and other years.

1992 - Korean group "Mission for the Coming Days" predicted October 28, 1992 as the date for the rapture.

1993 - Seven years before the year 2000. The rapture would have to start to allow for seven years of the Tribulation before the Return in 2000. Multiple predictions.

1994 - Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church in Los Angeles predicted June 9, 1994. Radio evangelist Harold Camping predicted September 6, 1994."

And yet, somewhat obstinately, the world is still here, and nobody has been "Raptured". You would think they would learn their lesson? But apparently not. Like the definition of insanity, some people persist in trying the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.

So who started the 2011 May 21 rumor, panic, hysteria? A dude by the name of Harold Camping, who is an 89 year old man who broadcasts live from an American fundie radio station called "Family Radio" - on account of like, how obsessed with other people's families the religious right whackos are and all. Yup, the same one who tried it in 1994. He apparently pulled both dates out of a hat after applying what is essentially quantum-mechanics and a generous amount of thumb-sucking, to the bible. In short, he might as well have thrown a dart at a calendar, blindfolded.

Camping is (surprisingly) not an actual minister or trained theologian - he has a BS in civil engineering from UC Berkeley, so while he could probably supervise a construction site like nobody's business, his ability to prophecy the end of the world leaves a lot to be desired.

Point 14 on the Camping article says: "I don’t know what Harold Camping would think if you quoted Deut. 18:20 to him. That verse says any false prophet who claims to speak for the Lord — but is proved to be wrong and therefore has spoken presumptuously — should be put to death. I've never heard him address this. If you have, I’d love to know what he thinks." - especially since he now clearly and in my opinion, quite predictably, has pie on his face.

Naturally, you would expect the originators of such bold announcements to stand behind their statements - but clearly they must have some doubts - enough to cling to their material possessions - as demonstrated in a letter from a minister to Mr Camping. In fact, the periodic Rapture hysteria caused by Mr Camping appears to have made him even wealthier: "In 2009, a caller to one of Camping’s open forums on the radio confronted the host on the financial issues, asking, “There’s quite a few people, older people and people like that, that have been taking their life savings out and sending it to your radio station. I was wondering if, on May 22nd, do they get a refund?”

“Well, the fact is, we don’t ask anybody why they are giving,” Camping answered. “We are not telling anybody what they are to give. Let each one make their own decisions on those matters.”" No kidding.

Camping doesn't have his own mega church. He doesn't even appear to believe in the need for a church at all. He doesn't need to - he owns a radio station that periodically advertises the end of the world - and seems to get paid a lot of money for it by people only too keen to believe him. Why should he stop - because people are laughing at him when it doesn't happen and he gets proved wrong time after time? I'll bet, like Liberace', he will cry about that - all the way to the bank.

Point 22 on the Camping article tells me a lot about this business: "Harold Camping won’t apologize for his wrong prediction once May 22 rolls around. Most likely he will say that, because of his efforts — and the efforts of his followers — to warn the world of the May 21 event, God has chosen to withhold his judgment for now. And not long after that, Camping will recalculate [again] and announce a new date." - which seems to roll around every few years anyway, so why should we be surprised anymore every time some half-wit runs around going off half-cocked like Chicken Little?

And speaking of "family" and children, who always seem to be at the top of the list when homophobes and bigots try to point fingers at same-sex couples raising kids as "child abuse", how about this one? A picture of kids wearing t-shirts advertising the end of the world on May 21 . Ok, so making a fool of a child and embarrassing them publicly isn't abusive? Hmmm. Oh, the humanity... but I digress.

Why is it that modern evangelical charismatic "Christianity" is increasingly being made to resemble the ancient beliefs of the Mayans and the East (which the "Church" claims to despise) that feature the pacification and placation of a wrathful deity? Are these people not still living in the Old Testament when they claim that 'God' is angry with the world and wants to destroy it - all faithful believers must make sacrifices, make atonements or make amends, prepare for the end - and then when (duh) nothing happens, the all-clear sounds and the same doom-sayers go out saying - "It's okay 'God' has been touched by our commitment and faith - and has postponed the End of the World." Yep. Uhuh. Till next time.

So when is the next time?

2060, apparently. According to numerous sources, Sir Isaac Newton dabbled in the game himself, and proposed, "based upon his calculations using figures from the book of Daniel, that the Apocalypse could happen no earlier than 2060." And of course, since he used math to work it out - and because he technically 'invented' gravity, his theory should hold more weight. Umm. Yes, well. Let's just wait and see, shall we?

That is, unless it happens like Hollywood says it could - when the Mayan calendar runs out for us in 2012, or one of Nostradamus's notoriously vague, ambiguous and unreliable "predictions" comes to pass first.

To date though, every attempt to predict the end of the world or the "Rapture" has failed. In fact, I feel that the only effective way to predict such an event accurately, is to be the one who makes it actually happen. Calculate the odds on that one, and you will have your answer.

My conclusions after all this?

Being primarily an agnostic - I think the whole theory that underpins the Rapture and its doctrine is just wishful thinking and conjecture based upon even more conjecture and wishful thinking - none of which is even remotely plausible, provable, or fit to take seriously - and until something actually happens which beyond any doubt whatever, proves it, I will not put any stock in it.

The "Rapture" in my opinion, despite being discredited as a doctrine by serious biblical scholars, and is being taught in many churches the world over as a "fact", is the manifest desire of Christians wanting to be proved right, if not just for themselves, out of a desire to be fulfilled in their faith and united with their god - but for some, to be able to wag their crooked little fingers at all the people they spent their lives oppressing and sidelining as if to say "Told you so - who's sorry now?"

But of course, when future "Rapture" predictions flop famously and gloriously like all those who have come and gone before them, I don't expect any of the folks who were wrapped up in the hysteria to mend their ways and become better people, or better Christians. No. Most of these same folks will go right on mercilessly persecuting other folks they don't like, as they do now - and it will be business as usual.

Which gives me the chills - because should this Rapture ever actually happen one day, and if THEY aren't the ones taken, I feel sorry for every one else "Left Behind" with them - because they will be made to pay for it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Come To The Dark Side - We Have Cookies Too

Christians - you just can't seem to win with them. If you're gay, you're evil. If you're not religious, you're evil. If you're an atheist, you're a "willing pawn of the devil". If you believe in another god or gods, or even call their god by another name, you're evil. If you are tolerant of other faiths, or of homosexuals - then you're "misled", "backsliding" or yep, evil.

If you're gay and a Christian (horror of horrors), they want to cut up your membership card and deny that you are part of their club (or ever were), and when you abandon their faith or even go so far as to change religions and want nothing more to do with them, they still persecute you because you have somehow "proved them right" - and then they see you as an even bigger "threat" to their paranoiac little "worldview".

Many Christians automatically assume everyone else is a Christian too, or if they aren't, should be - which is why I often receive these annoying spam chain letters filled with snarky comments about Muslims or other faiths - or about us dirty rotten trannies and queers who just don't seem to get the message. God has got our number and will be coming round to punish us for our "sinful lifestyle choice" - oh yes, and presumably to pat them on the head for a job well done. And quite often, these people do not realize the harm they do to their own image and their own cause - take for example the following:

The world is always ending, the sky is always falling, and there are always "signs of the end times". I am seriously looking forward to the 22nd May 2011 - because I am going to taunt every fundamentalist half-wit who sent me a chain letter about the end of the world being nigh on the 21st with: "Hey guess what, the world didn't end yesterday - don't we feel stooopiiid?" LMAO. Just like the other twenty-odd dates I've heard of in the past few years. What happened? Was it postponed? Cancelled due to poor attendance? Why didn't I get the memo? LOL. Now, ahem - before someone runs off to report me for being a "Christophobe" (that one was specially for "Dr" Peter Hammond of the FF and CAN conglomerate whose wonderful book exposed our cunning plan to take over the world), let me move on to my point.

Many Christians are very tolerant and loving people. I know they exist, because I know some of them personally. In fact, some of my family falls under that description. Most of them though don't even have a clue about what is going on around them, and sad to say, when authority figures in the Christian Church foam at the mouth in their pulpits about us dirty, unhygienic and perverted Pink folks who dare to love people regardless of gender, or who even go so far as to "mutilate our bodies", they just shake their heads, head off for coffee and cake afterwards, talk about work, the kids and politics, and then carry on minding their own business. They still speak to me as a friend, and they refuse to condemn me for who and what I am. But unfortunately, they also don't speak out or stand up to the bullies who stand up front pretending to speak the truth and also pretending to speak "under the anointing" as the charismatic evangelical saying goes. Which means, aside perhaps from a few nice conversations over tea and cookies with these friends of mine, most of them are not of much good to me.

What do I mean? While I appreciate their friendship and their honesty, I know for certain that should I ever hear the trump of boots at my door in the wee hours one morning, if one day "they" ever come for me, I certainly doubt they will even publicly admit to knowing me, let alone lift a finger to help. You see, I think that while they are far more close to the originator of their religion, the Christ they all speak of - but only a few honor - they are lukewarm Christians as in everything else as well. Be that as it may, it is the others I fear we need to watch out for - the fundamentalists.

Yes, the fundamentalists - those folks who swallow a dose of hate every time they read a passage of their holy book, looking keenly between the lines for the bits where the same Christ who reportedly never condemned anyone to death, actually meant to. The empty spaces between the lines are filled with things ordinary folk don't know about - where things God meant to say or thought - or said to them in their private moments of coherence, are written - presumably in invisible ink. Things that inspire them to act as if they are the right hand of their God, sent out to strangle the freedom out of the world to make the choices which their book says their god gives us all - in order to take away that choice completely.

Why do I mention the death sentence? Why, because there are some folks in every Christian community in South Africa that believe the death penalty will sort out all their problems - and especially for that troublesome "gay" problem. You know it's true - how many of these radicals are also ardent supporters of the pro-gun lobby both locally as well as internationally? Do you even know who your pastor is who is up there laying down the law and giving you the "good news"? Or do you just sit there and follow blindly, swallowing everything as if you have a funnel stuck between your jaws?

There are even folks in this country who belong to a few political parties supposedly representing "all Christians" in South Africa who argue that way. They want gay and trans people "punished" for being gay or trans - and for not "listening" to them. Just up the road in Uganda, for the past three years, there has been a serious attempt to do just that - kill all the Pink people in that country just because they live life in a slightly different shade of human. And while you might be thinking that this is just politics, let me ask you if you ever stopped to wonder if people who argue so hatefully against us Pink folks ever use medical or scientific proof to demonstrate their point? Or if you look closely, do they demonstrate a keen religious - and definite fundamentalist undercurrent - in their arguments?

Does any of the so-called evidence and "studies" they present as they did in Uganda for instance, where they still believe that gay people recruit children in schools, and people can become gay just by looking at one, stand up in the light of serious inspection? Do you even know? Well I'll tell you - no, it doesn't. It's propaganda, twisted by openly religious fundamentalist stooges wishing to destroy the lives of people they don't want to grant the right to live in peace beside them, on purely religious grounds. And take a look at the most vocal people in the tragedy on the Ugandan stage these past three years - they are Bishops, Reverends, Priests, Pastors, foreign evangelists, government ministers who are also religious officials or champions of the Ugandan genocide bill. If one day this tug-of-war ends and the Bill passes and the Ugandan government begins to slaughter it's Pink Community, it will not just be a human tragedy that could have been avoided, but it will be a genocide fueled by religious fundamentalist Christianity.

The irony is, these fundamentalist Christians feel the same way about people of other religions, they grant no-one else the peace to share the world with them because they see everyone else as enemies and competitors, and an insult to their beliefs and way of life - which fits neatly into a space big enough only to hold their holy book, and no more.

Trouble is, every other group they hate has guns, countries and the ability to defend themselves - we Pink folk don't. We live among you, in every place on Earth. They pretty much run the governments, churches and society and hold privileges which come with being a social majority - which include typically, the "right" to keep out minorities they don't approve of. We have no country to care for our interests, no armed forces to deter or cool the viciousness of their attack. We can be born anywhere, into any family, to other gay or trans people - or to the most religious and worshiped evangelical pastor in the world - and what we are is by nature - and nature is a notorious lover of irony.

And when I know that there are political parties in this country only too keen to mix politics with religion, and in most cases solely to attract votes from the fundamentalists, it worries me. Mostly though it is all smoke and mirrors, just a ruse to attract votes - but in a few frighteningly fanatical cases, it is a genuine expression of a dark and deep-rooted desire to take over the world South Africa and to bed and bend us all to its will.

Where is all this going to? I have to wonder. But I suppose none of it frightens me as much as the astonishing silence from the other Christians - almost forgotten, those who sit silently in the pews, listening to the ranting and hate mongering, saying nothing and giving consent to folks who belong more in an episode of Pinky and the Brain than in a pulpit of a church supposedly founded on sacrifice and the undying love of a creator-god for its children - or in a government acting in their name.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

SA - Not So Liberal After All

Not interested in politics? Not interested in how the government spends its time - and your money? Really? Think we live in a nice, quiet, safe country where all is right with the world? The government is benevolent and doing its best to deliver all the things it claims to? Think it lives up to our Constitution? Think it cares about all the people who live in South Africa? Think there is no reason to be concerned with anything to do with politics?

Who is still naive enough to think we aren't already living in a police state? Come on, don't be shy - put your hands up.

Think about it for a moment. No, really.

The South African Police "Service" have resumed the use of a military rank system - and their "General" has told them for all intents and purposes to shoot first and ask questions later - and to shoot to kill. People accused of crimes, innocent or not, spend years in prison awaiting trial. The recent spate of police brutality and excessive force and unjustifiable violence has resulted in comparisons between the current Police "Service" and the old Apartheid-era Police "Force" - and these comparisons have been made not just by the average citizen - but also by those formerly oppressed by the old Police Force. Looking at it closely, one can understand perfectly why.

Two weeks back, a local activist in Ficksburg was brutally assaulted and then shot dead by a group of policemen in riot gear - this despite the fact that the man was not even resisting them. The fact that this transpired openly in front of press cameras and journalists, speaks of a shameful devaluation of human life and threatens to redefine the term "transparency". Last week, an unarmed civilian was shot dead by a policeman in the street outside a police station while in her private vehicle, apparently after colliding with a parked police vehicle. It is as though the average police officer these days doesn't care a damn what they do and who sees it and knows about it - because the "boss" said it is "okay" and they are after all, "only doing their job". Also last week, it was reported that a policeman at a crime scene refused to call an ambulance for a wounded victim despite repeated pleas to do so because "she was going to die anyway". And yes, the victim did die - but who made this policeman an expert in the medical field? The fact that she did die doesn't prove him right - if anything, it makes him complicit. So first we had "shoot to kill" - now we have cops who think they are qualified to decide whether shooting victims will die or not. We now have police officers who seem to think they are the law and they are above it.

What about that non-existent crime problem the government likes to laugh about? I remember our previous President still made a big joke about it by saying in a speech "what crime problem?" - while living in the presidential residence which was protected by a palisade electrified fence, perimeter cameras and other expensive security devices. As I recall not long afterwards, he was burgled and some of these devices were among the items stolen. C'mon - you have to love the irony in that.

Irony aside though, we ordinary South Africans are prisoners in our own homes, reluctant to go out for fear of being hijacked, attacked or killed - and if that isn't bad enough, we fear being attacked or killed in our own homes. That's right - these days criminals don't wait for the occupants of a house they target to go out, they strike specifically when they are home, so they can get their personal items - and the codes for all the security devices and safes etc. You have to ask what does a person intend if he breaks into a house while the residents are home, while he is armed with a knife or gun? And to make matters worse, if we injure or kill our attackers, even in our homes - we are treated like the criminals and not the victims. Relatives of a deceased burglar shot dead in the act by a homeowner were shown the other day outside the court where the homeowner was found innocent, protesting the verdict of innocent. How can people think that way? What do burglars want inside people's homes - and what do they expect if they break in when people are home?

Licensed owners of firearms are pressurized by new laws designed to make the whole process of acquiring and keeping firearms such an ordeal, that most people prefer to just hand them in to the Police at a loss. Firearms prices have plummeted because nobody wants to go through the hassle of applying for a permit - and because everyone who wants to get rid of their weapons and wants to recoup their costs can't find a buyer. Licensed weapons handed in to the Police sometimes find their way back onto the streets illegally instead of being destroyed as promised, and criminals commit crimes with illegal weapons, not legal licensed ones - which have been mostly stolen, and often from the Police or military themselves.

Ordinary licensed gun-owners have to renew gun licenses every 5 years despite nothing having changed to bring their competency into question during that period, and each time facing an ordeal of multiple forms that need to be filled in. And then there is the cost - where a gun license was a once-off thing that cost you a R50 revenue stamp, the process of licensing and renewing a license every 5 years now costs you R140 a pop. That's right - so tell me, is this about keeping society safe from people considered sane and safe enough to own a weapon becoming somehow inexplicably incompetent - or about making more money to waste on stupid government "cultural" affairs and parties? Add to that the inconvenience of having to produce two recommendations from relatives. Now what about people who have no living relatives? Will they be excluded from renewing or procuring a license?

Speaking of licenses, while people still drive without licenses unhindered on public roads, licensed drivers have to renew their driving licenses every 5 years. Whereas before a person's license would be kept in their ID book and was a once-off item, it is now a card that has to be renewed - and for a fee. Try as I may, I can think of no sane logical reason to go on renewing this item every 5 years - aside from generating yet more revenue for a wasteocratic state that thinks the average citizen is a dumb-ass knucklehead who will just STFU and pay repeatedly for something they already have. Trouble is, they seem to be right.

Then we also need to ask about all the licensing scams that took place over the years, and how many of the licensed drivers out there are actually licensed at all. Add to that the whole of southern Africa's (hopefully) licensed drivers can cross the borders and drive on our roads without having an international driver's license. Great - and we think the taxi's on our roads are an accident looking for a place to happen? Are the training and licensing standards equal to ours? I have to repeat something I said in an earlier article - a local yokel from Zim or Lesotho can drive on our roads with his license which in all likelihood he probably bought somewhere - but a person from a first-world country with first-world standards and with a first-world license, has to first get citizenship of this country before going for a K-53 license test and being allowed to drive here? That makes no sense at all to me.

All that aside, we also have to question the effectiveness of the legal system. The independence of the judiciary is clearly in question, and has been for some time now. It goes without saying that our South African government is corrupt and filled with incompetent buffoons appointed solely because of their race or because of who they are related to - or who in power owes them a favor. The effectiveness of the Human Rights Commission is debatable, as certain issues are dealt with timeously and decisively - but others, of less interest to the government are delayed or ignored completely. Take the issue of "corrective rape" and hate crimes against the Pink Community - or a prime example such as Jon Qwelane. Qwelane, a former columnist for the Sunday Sun who despite facing charges of hate speech and incitement to violence in the enigmatic Equality Court, has somehow evaded facing justice for 4 years now - and was appointed as SA ambassador to Uganda, by no less than President Zuma himself. Further, the relevant government department that pays him a salary out of tax money paid for by amongst others, the object of his hate speech and incitement to violence, has also recently declared that Mr Qwelane would not be recalled "no matter what opposition" to his appointment.

Let's look at some of the laws that govern our privacy. Currently the "RICA" law means that you can't have a mobile phone service, whether prepaid or account, without registering the number to your name using your ID book and proof of address. Well, you could go on for a while, but when the cut-off date arrives, the service provider is legally obliged to literally cut your service, regardless of how long you have been a client or how much revenue you generate for them. Further, all service providers are obligated to make their client database available to the government, should this be deemed necessary - which they could probably have done under the old existing legislation, although pre-paid users could continue anonymously. When considering internet use, this Act also allows the service provider to tell the govt whose mobile phone number and whose IP address belongs to who, and thus you can no longer have anonymity when having a mobile phone or internet service.

Also, most people don't know how effective a tracking device a modern mobile phone is. They tell the network exactly where they - and most likely you - are, 24-7. What, you think a mobile phone with GPS only works one way? The network knows where that phone is - and if the network knows, the government can know too. Yes, I have to say it sounds awfully like "Big Brother" is watching us, doesn't it?

The financial equivalent of the "RICA" law - the imaginatively named "FICA", tells the government every little detail about our bank and financial details, our investment or banking history - and ties every single bank account to an ID number and proof of address. Every single transaction on your bank account - and if you drew money from an ATM in Johannesburg - or transferred funds from a pc in an internet cafe in Middledrift - is open to scrutiny. Thus, nobody can have a bank account without the government knowing who you are and where you live and what you have been doing and where.

Ever buy a plane ticket? Notice how you need to supply an ID book for that? Even when you're travelling just from city to city within South Africa? All air carriers do that I suppose - just in case the late Osama decided to catch a plane under his own name - but when last have you bought a bus ticket? Same thing - you can't buy a bus ticket without producing your ID book. Try it sometime. In short, we cannot make use of air or bus services in order to travel between cities in South Africa without the government being able to find out our movements. Oh, but you can use your car to travel - you think? Ummm - got a tracking device fitted? Have a GPS unit in your phone? Use your bank card along the way? You can bet that information is available somewhere in the legislation too, seeing as it uses cellular or satellite communications technology. Some of these tracking things are really advanced - they can even tell you on your internet interface the different speeds your car was doing on the N2 and at what time of day. How long will it be before that system gets linked to a government traffic control system to nail you for all your indiscretions in a 60kph zone?

Aside from that, we also have some interesting new laws waiting in the wings - and I think you'll notice that right now, around election time, they are being kept ominously quiet - perhaps because the government is afraid of scaring off the few discerning voters they have among the masses. The so-called Protection of Information and "Pornography" bills threaten to extend total control over our private communications. As if to demonstrate the dangers of the POI last year a journalist was abducted by security forces in full view of the public, kept against his will for several hours and later released.

Imagine if at the time the POI had been in effect - nobody would have known about it - and none of the dozens of journalists who witnessed the abduction would have been allowed to report on it. The two Bills constitute a "double-whammy" - the one appears to focus on "sensitive" information relating to anything the government doesn't want YOU to know about - and the other is cunningly disguised as a moral attempt to ban pornography from any electronic medium - but what most people don't know is that while they are making a big fuss over the POI, "nobody" wants to be known to speak out against the "Porn Bill" because it will make them look bad - and this is the beauty of the plan, because while the POI might not pass, the "Porn Bill" could - and it would achieve for government exactly the same control over communications networks the POI would. Fun.

Then we have the public broadcaster, the good old SABC, which has a Board (when it actually has a Board) consisting entirely of ANC-appointed cronies - making it a ruling party mouthpiece. We are obligated by law to pay the annual TV license even just for possessing a TV unit, regardless of wether we intend to watch the SABC stations, or watch the free E-TV channel, or other pay-TV services like Mnet or DSTV. The SABC has clear inroads through the entire Southern African subcontinent - and while citizens of SA have to pay TV licenses for their sub-standard BS programming even if they intend to make use of other services - I wonder if anyone in any of these other countries actually pays anything for it? Back home, we are bombarded with endless advertising campaigns designed to guilt-trip people into paying the TV license, even though the SABC has been charging for ad-space all along and prompts me to think that if they still can't make ends meet, then they deserve to close up shop and hand the sector over to private companies who would run things like they actually know what they are doing.

What about Eskom? It has been supplying oodles of power to African countries at discount rates while here we poor suffering idiots are starved of it whenever we use "more than the network can handle" and are shamed into using less despite being charged more than it is worth. And I might mention one of the countries Eskom supplies electricity to at discount rates is Uganda - a country which has as much respect for the human rights of my community as Hitler and the Nazis. Every time I turn on a light I feel a stab of insult and guilt to go with it. Every time I give the fuckers money I feel a slap in the face for it. But hey, that's what is called a "captive market".

Then we have a "free" Press that, despite the current attempts by the government to gag this free press, has the audacity to self-censor. Think I'm kidding? Just a few months back, the Media demonstrated this for the second year running by maintaining a media black-out on the topic of the Mr Gay South Africa pageant. Scarcely a word was breathed about it in the Press or Media, as if by some prearranged convention. Yet these same publications which impose this blackout are also the same publications who make sure that they cover every news-item relating to the Pink Community in such a way as to make it negative or an embarrassment to us. Ironically enough, the parent company that owns most of these papers is a South African owned international giant that virtually has a monopoly of Media and Press on the continent, so imagine the chances of any change being forthcoming?

The there are the inevitable religious issues. Let's see... where do I begin? How about religious monopoly? Let's take an example. When Woolworths decided to pull Christian fundamentalist magazines from their shelves due to lack of sales, the entire Christian community went into an uproar. Never mind that none of them want to buy the books, they want Woolworths to stock them just in case somebody wanted to buy them. Crazy. And of course, not stocking items that don't actually sell naturally amounted to "persecution" of the Christian faith. Right *wink*. But never mind all the countless other people out there whose religious reading desires remain uncatered for by book stores and supermarkets across the country. I've never heard a Muslim complaining that Woollies didn't stock their stuff, or a Hindu, or even a Jew or a Wiccan. It makes my jaw drop - and I say this with open mindedness and respect for diversity, really - the paranoia and arrogance of your average Christian. They appear to be so used to getting their way that any semblance of equality with everyone else who isn't a Christian is met with hostility and an attitude of "you're discriminating against me".

Now by contrast, wherever I go in Pagan circles I encounter tales of people having tried to open Pagan-oriented businesses in shopping malls, but had their efforts torpedoed by conservatives - most typically Christian fundamentalists - who seem to forget that there are other religions in this country and it is not a crime to not belong to theirs. Thus, most shopping malls do not have Pagan book or gift shops in them, because the tenants or owners don't want them - and whenever there are Pagan shops, they end up getting picketed or visited by a bunch of local loonies coming to check out the "devil-worshipers" and to pressure them into closing. At the end of the day, this is the reason most Pagan type shops are either housed in independently owned premises, or so toned down that they are cunningly disguised with lots of crucifixes and other motif items in an attempt to placate the fundamentalists- sometimes to the point where they might as well just label themselves as "sell-outs" and be done with it.

How about the fancy book shops you find in most malls? They usually have esoteric sections, including books about multiple religions, and even Pagan faiths such as Wicca. Not in Port Elizabeth, they don't - not anymore. A friend of mine was recently accosted by a raving lunatic in a bookshop simply for browsing the tiny pagan book section - and her husband had to intervene before he would leave her alone. What is wrong with this country when people dare to try and force other people to believe what they believe - or try to limit access to information so that they limit freedom of choice to others? No Pagan books or book sections - but conversely they have massive sections on Christianity. Some choice that is eh? *wink* Now there are hardly any Pagan book sections available, and the ones that remain are even smaller. This is a sick city I live in. Trouble is, there are others just like it around South Africa.

Friends of mine are afraid to be known for their religion. They are proud of their choice of religion, they don't go around forcing their religions down other people's throats, hold "praise and worship" sessions in public streets, or hand out pamphlets promising redemption and eternal life - but they still don't want people in general to know they are Pagans, because they fear for their jobs, or the likelihood that they will be discriminated against for it. They fear for the harm that could come to them, and they don't want the loonies at their office to accost them and try to force their own religions down their throats - or to have a bunch of protesters at their front gate come Samhain when they have some friends around for a circle and a social. This despite having freedom of religion and conscience inscribed in the Constitution. What good is such a Constitution if it is not enforced?

A friend of mine is a Methodist minister, and even he has been telling me how conservative and homophobic one of the churches he serves at has been becoming lately, even though up until recently it had been quite open and welcoming. I find it shocking that despite the Constitution which prevents discrimination against people on various grounds - including religion - the same Constitution is not being enforced in many instances and certain bodies - churches in particular - which are allowed to preach hatred and to act out of malice, intolerance and to indulge in blatant discrimination and even intimidation simply because of the excuse that they believe it is their religion to do so. Would racism be excused if it was being preached from the pulpit? No, I didn't think so either. But somehow homophobia and transphobia are excusable and perfectly legal? What's wrong with this picture?

The son of our former domestic who retired 2 years ago comes over every week to do some cleaning around the house. He does it for the extra money and our families have grown quite close over the years. Now the reason I mention this is that this young man feels pressured into wearing an ANC t-shirt because of the risk of violence if he were to wear a t-shirt advertising his political party of preference. What kind of society do we live in where we have a Constitution that supposedly protects our rights to freedom of speech and expression and we still live under a threat of violence if we do so?

Currently the policy of BEE or Black Economic Empowerment has replaced the old policy of "Affirmative Action", but it is exactly the same - a racist policy which limits the jobs a person can apply for and be appointed in on the basis of their race. Now the "formerly disadvantaged" can get a job based solely on their racial characteristics, regardless of how little education or capacity they have, and we have a new group of "currently disadvantaged" people - and as a bonus we now have homeless and poor unemployed people not just of one race, but all races. Oh well, equality is a bitch sometimes, innit?

So in South Africa you have the right of freedom of speech and expression and religion - provided those in power happen to agree with you. You have the right to be milked of your money in a government-run experiment to see how much people will pay for what they used to get for free. You have the right to privacy except where the government feels a need to know what you have been doing with your money, your internet use, who you have been calling and what you have been saying. You have the right to information as long as the government - or the Press - has okayed that information first. You are free to travel the country, just as long as Big Brother knows where you are at all times. You are free to work, just as long as you are of a certain race group.

To sum up, we are dangerously close to having no anonymity and no privacy - and quite honestly, no actual freedom at all. You can't open a bank account, take out a mobile phone contract, or even travel using public transport - or your own car - without the government knowing about it and what you do with it. You can't be gay, transgender or even Pagan or of a non-Christian faith without someone preventing you from opening a business, renting an apartment, attending a religious service, or being employed or going unhindered for it. If you are, chances are good the Press won't cover it unless it helps portray your community in a negative light. If you don't fit into the cis-gender heterosexual Christian fundamentalist ruling-party supporter stereotype, you walk the streets with a bulls-eye on your back.

Is this the equal opportunity society free of oppression and discrimination we were promised in 1994? Is it?

When it comes to election time, don't be fooled by the smiles and promises, the dancing or the singing - or forget the attempts certain political parties have been making to strip the public - YOU - of civil rights, human rights, dignity and equality - even if they have gone strangely quiet on these issues close to the time.

So are you voting in the upcoming local municipal elections on the 18th? Or are you going to score one for the other side by sitting on your ass and helping the government to go on sabotaging human rights and screwing this country up even more than it has already?