Monday, August 31, 2009

Some freaky stuff at schools... drugs, etc challenge a deeper look

I recently, on the spur of the moment, was commanded by my youngest to go to school and listen to the guy speaking on drug-abuse. Well, actually my wife bought a ticket and couldn't go. So, I had to go and honestly speaking, it was one of those 'had-to-go' ones, because 'the ticket was bought', etc. It turned out to be quite an informative (if not sobering and thought-provoking) evening with other parents, who probably were there, also because they well…. 'had to go'.

The speaker walked, like an evangelist, up and down on the stage, had a cap drawn deep into his eyes, and opened with something like… 'I am an addict and I am currently committing a criminal offence'. It soon dawned on all of us that he had a cigarette in his hand. Later, he dramatically, (maybe not like the evangelist) lit it and took few puffs, illustrating a little story of how he got started. This was but one of the many funny, yet deeply moving stories he shared out of his own life. For most of us, it could have been just another moralistic diatribe making us, as parents feel guilty again. Having felt guilty enough to feel that this is a had-to-go meeting, at school, I did not need more guilt trips. Fortunately, (*sigh*)I don't smoke and do those kinds of stuff, but the story of Steve went deeper.

Steven, having worked in schools for many years, was telling us that our children are exposed to drugs, on a daily basis and that, up to 80% of high school kids here in Johannesburg are on one or the other kind of drug. Yes, I know. For me it also sounded a bit like a wild-eyed, doomsday preacher. Walking up and down, cap deep in the eyes, he however continued to share anecdotes of how children in 'our' primary school, in his morning session, were able to easily debate on which booze was the best; they knew the labels, the tastes and felt it cool to be into these. For him the fundamental problem was that we as parents deny these realities. For us, it is always those kids, that family and never our very own. We would conveniently 'other-fy' the druaddict and go on with business as usual. I could however see, over the crowd of parents, many heads going, 'wow', 'eish', etc. Here, we were confronted with a reality that we thought was only possible in the media and Hollywood (Beverley Hills 90210, to be exact), or 'on the other side'.

I work also in Riverlea, where on an annual basis, in our church community I am privileged to have a little group of 6-7 teenagers (15-17 years) in a little 'bible class.' Most of the time, at the face of the ire of parents and the churchboard, we stray too far from talking about the ten commandments and the teachings of the church, to simply talk about sex, drugs and hip-hop or (these days 'house'). They like that and they like to talk about that. I like to listen. They are clear: their schools are infested with 'corruption' (that's the words they use). Corruption is amongst others, where, on their school yards, now, drugs of all shapes and sizes, are available. Whether it be 'sugars' , coke, weed, 'rocks', 'gafief'… whateva, you want it, you can have it. Teachers, in their view, are impotent to deal with this, the police useless, because, according to them they are as corrupt as the 'merchands'. These young people tell me that they are clean, but it's a tough-tough world to go out of your house and attend school. The stuff that Steve, is sharing is for real!

I wondered, what lies at the heart of this? Why would young people, want to consciously become 'throw-away people'? Why would they want to collectively become the prey of highly efficient, highly connected criminal syndicates, bend on selling young bodies at the highest bidder. This, of course is an age-old question. To present drug abuse, and young people, today, as wild, urban folk devils will not adequately deal with the deeper roots of this collective suicide. It simply deny the fact that there might be deeper structural roots, i.e. community and cultural patterns that drive them towards depression, a loss of vision, but also a loss of internal reference points, to chart their way. I think that the current surge of consumerism, where one's identity is formed by the trappings of wealth, remain one of the key drivers of a loss of community and a morphing of our identities from communally (family) based towards consumer based. This is not an easy matter. In fact, having said this, I would concede that the encroachment of the current world system on families, on our children is much more pervasive and powerful then we think. Perhaps its more powerful that what parents or church communities currently can handle. Its not simply a medical condition to be sorted out by an institution… the roots goes deeper in the kind of system where, even church communities, or schools, have become efficient corporations, at the expense of deep community. We are faced with a culture, which prize boozing and where advertising campaigns have deaden our sensitivities to softer (legal)drugs, in the pursuit of profits, our ultimate human achievement. For those that fell through the cracks, who simply did not fit these categories, or who simply failed to make the system work, the only solution is to become the consumer… to doze off and eventually are consumed by this system.

This talk by Steven was sobering. It made, at least this parent to think again, to hope and pray again that his teenagers might not fall prey. It challenged me again to look deeper into our lifestyles and what we hold dear. Perhaps, we all need had-to go experiences, forced upon us, by our children, to challenge us, even as parents, to listen and to be changed.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Auntie Vicky" se dieper vrae

Ek het onlangs grepe uit die interessante storie van “auntie Vicky” Jardine gelees. Wel, eintlik het die boek van die bekroonde skrywer Chris van Wyk nie oor haar gegaan nie, maar oor haar seun. Sy was egter ook daar, deel van die storie. ’n Gewone huisvrou wat in Johannesburg in ’n klerefabriek gewerk het.

Wat egter opval, is dat dié merkwaardige vrou by verskeie geleenthede ernstig gebots het met die owerheid. Sy het openlik gestry teen apartheid. Trouens, in haar huis is ’n besprekingsgroep van vroue begin. Dié groep het ’n rol gespeel in duisende vroue se opmars na die Uniegebou – destyds vir vroueregte. Die staaltjie word ook vertel hoedat sy in ’n stadium met geweld weggesleep is van die Johannesburgse stadsaal in haar stryd vir gelykheid en die reg.

Wat is die erfenis van “auntie Vicky” se stryd vir vandag? Op die oog af is daar is nie veel oor nie.

Luister maar na die manier waarop jong mans neerhalend praat oor vroue, of kyk maar na ons skokkende verkragtingsyfers. As ons egter dieper kyk, merk ons op dat dié onthutsende verskynsels simptome is. Dieper skuil daar ’n manier van dink en handel wat die waardigheid van mense skend en wat telkens op nuwe maniere kop uitsteek. Waarom kan ons dan nog nie ’n verskil sien nie?

Kom laat ons nou eerlik wees.

Die meeste van ons het gehoop dat bloot ’n meer verteenwoordigende regering, met die insluiting van swart mense, die land onherkenbaar sou verander na ’n wonderlike paradys vir almal: Vroue, kinders, swart, bruin, wit, gays en lesbiërs. ’n Hemel op aarde. Ons het gedink dat die dag toe almal geduldig in rye gestaan het vir ’n kans om ’n kruisie te trek, die demone van rassisme, geslagsdiskriminasie, maar ook die ongelyke verdeling van rykdom, uiteindelik uitgewis is. Mettertyd kom ons agter dinge lyk maar dieselfde; ons herken dieselfde gesigte, dieselfde gedragspatrone – met dieselfde wrang gevolge. Waar “auntie Vicky” en die vroue hand aan hand opgestaan het vir ’n beter toekoms vir hul kinders, waar hulle gehoop en gestry het vir ’n nuwe land, wonder ons al hoe meer of daar diep genoeg gekyk is, of daar diep genoeg gesny is, of daar werklik na hulle geluister is.

As ons kyk na die diep woede in gemeenskappe oor die ooglopende materialisme en magsmisbruik onder ons regeringslui, moet ons weer vra: Is ons regering ernstig genoeg oor die waardes van gelykheid en geregtigheid? Ons vra vrae waar besope geregsdienaars hul voertuie bestuur en probeer wegjaag wanneer hulle uitgevang word. Ons vra vrae vra as openbare instellings gebruik word om ons terug te neem na die ou verlede van knoeiery, verdrukking en geweld, waar mense op die kleur van hul vel getakseer word. Die verandering van gesigte in die sagte parlementsbanke was duidelik nie genoeg nie.

Wat moes ons gehoor het? Wat het hierdie onbekende vroue-profete aangevuur en ander profete, soos die vervolgde Birmese vryheidsleier Aung San Suu Kyi, om die dieper vrae te vra en ons verder te neem na die omverwerp van verdrukkende stelsels? Ek vermoed dat daar vele antwoorde op hierdie vraag is. Vir my staan daar twee uit. Eerstens is daar by hulle die onwrikbare begrip dat mense, wie ook, ten diepste gelyk is, dat hulle beelddraers van God is en daarom met ’n inherente waardigheid beklee is. Tweedens is daar die geloof dat God gewone mense gebruik om ’n verskil in die wêreld te maak.

Die geloof wat aan sekere klasse in ons samelewing meer mag en eer toeken, word ontmasker.

Ook vandag is daar nuwe “auntie Vickys”. Hulle is deel van massas wat die strate vat en dié in magsposisies op hul tone hou. Hul stemme word gehoor wanneer hulle die stilte verbreek in die intieme ruimtes, maar ook by die werkplek. Hulle vra dieper vrae, ongemaklike vrae wanneer ons ons aandadigheid aan verknegtende stelsels probeer verdoesel in mooi, groot óf selfs godsdienstige woorde.

(Verskyn in Die Beeld 17 Aug 2009)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Colour would count for nothing in a free Africa...

I am one of those who argue that we need to talk. Julius Malema, might be loathed by some, but, what I like about him is that, at least from him, we can hear what are being said behind closed doors. He is the babble mouth toddler who 'innocently' tells the world what daddy did or say last night, when it was dark. I think these toddlers know more then we give them credit for.

Anyway, it's no dark secret that the sentiment that black Africans, suffered more and deserve more runs deep. Xolela Mangcu speaks of 'racial nativism', i.e. 'the idea the true custodians of Africans are the natives. The natives are often defined as black Africans because they are indigenous to the country, and within that group the true natives are those who participated in the resistance struggle' (2008:2) He continues to explain this thinking, 'by dint of their authenticity, these natives have the right to silence white interlopers or black sell-outs'.

Mangcu, who hails from the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), however argues for what he calls 'racial syncretism', which, for him is congruent with the best traditions of Pan Africanist and Black Consciousness movements and which uphold the 'ideal of a non-racial democratic society in which all citizens are regarded as equal...'.

For Robert Sobukwe, Africans are 'those, of any colour, who accepts Africa as their home'. Benjamin Pogrund, writes of his experiences, as a white person, alongside Africanists. 'Amongst the Africanists there were certainly people who could be described as having intense animosity for whites.... But to dub all the Africanists or the movement (PAC) as anti-white was crude. Sobukwe, for example, was already a friend of mine, and our relationship was to grow a lot closer with the years. There was not a vestage of racial felling in him. he simply accepted people as people, both then and allways.'(2006: 101-102) In Sobukwe's response to an attack by liberal polititians that he was anti-white, he writes, 'We guarantee no minority rights because we are fighting precisely that group-exclusiveness which those who plead for minority rights would like to perpetuate...I have said it before, and I still say so now, that I see no reason why, in a free democratic Africa, a predominantly black electorate should not return a white man (sic) to parliament, for colour will count for nothing in a free Africa... (105-106)

I,think, for now, that settles it....(to be continued)

Xolela Mangcu. To the brink: The state of democracy in South Africa.
Benjamin Pogrund. How can a man die better: The life of Robert Sobukwe

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cele should stop the charade and clean up SAPS

Our new top cop got his job cut out. One of his biggest challenges is going to be to stamp out corruption, but also those incompetent and downright, rotten police officers. I'm sure Mr Cele will never run after a thug, in his purple jackets and Italian shoes. He would however leave a legacy if he can run after his own-those rotten, cadres.

Let me tell you what I mean. Whilst, we all loathe those who drag our beloved country with her proud legacy of struggling for equality and justice, down the drain, let's not look too far in some dark corner of our communities. The enemy is closer. On Saturday night after some rugby and 'kuier', one of our close friends left our home in good spirits (and we did not have any 'spirits' al all). Young husband, wife and their beautiful baby daughter, our godchild. After 12 minutes we got a call, they were in an accident. We rushed to the scene, at about ten to ten to find them shocked, struggling to gain composure. Their car is wrecked, which they bought and kept on the road, with a modest income; the car with which they serve their community. This, I suppose one could describe as 'a normal accident' (this description is important), but there's more.

After we made sure our two-year old was okay, we saw the guy who drove in them, almost killing mother and child. He was drunk and tried to drive away, but was stopped by the damage to his own bakkie. Now, stil struggling to stay on his feet, he tried to convince my friend that he should not call the cops. He tried to explain, that we are all human and that he will make everything right for him. By this time my friend called our famous 10111 a few times, and gradually grew more and more frustrated and furious, as there were no signs of our SAPS, as yet. The usual suspects arrived, we call them the 'vultures', ready to tow the cars away, at exorbitant rates (which you only discover afterwards). So, we discovered that they 'overheard' the radio conversations, because one of them (tow truckers) is an off-duty cop. He confronted the drunk, corrupt offender, who also pulled out his police identification card, it turns out, he is an inspector at the Johannesburg police station, and displayed proudly on his cellphone wallpaper, a proud ANC supporter.

To make a long story short- we ended up in the Florida police station, after 12, at night, being told off by the inspector, in charge, that this drunk, corrupt inspector of SAPS, will be out the next day (today) and, most probably, be back on duty (read: on the road again), serving the community. He explained rather, annoyingly, that we need to understand that this rotten cop is actually like all of us. According to 'procedure' the blood tests usually takes from 6-8 weeks to a year to come back and that the court dates, most probably will only be next year June. In fact, the colleagues there, agreed amongst themselves that this is 'a normal accident', the subtext being, nothing will come of this.

I am outraged. I saw it last night at the scene how cynical members of our community remains of the integrity of SAPS. They openly declared that nothing will come of this; that the cops will protect each other and that what happened there is normal. The good people will come nowhere, maintaining their trust in the system. I tried to convince them otherwise, but how can I maintain the lie? How long will I be able to convince people of the integrity of our systems, when they know and have experienced that the powerful, the corrupt will allways win. It's is at this level that Cele, will have to make substantial inroads. If he fails to convince us that his cops are clean, competent professionals, driven by passion and integrity, then all his mafia-type bavado will remain simply that, empty bravado. But, that's not all. More and more people, like the community members on the scene, will start to protect their own, themselves, against the system. They will be left with few choices. This is a scary scenario and one that we certainly would want to prevent. The question is for how long will the people remain victims, for how long will people remain quiet, whilst those who we entrust the responsibility to safeguard our communities, maintain a charade whilst protecting the vile...Its seems there is no question:
Mr Cele, you've got your job cut out: clean up the SAPS !

Musings.....