Through Vangi-tinted glasses

Perspectives from an African

To err is human but forgiveness is divine February 28, 2012

Filed under: From Consciousness straight to you — Vangi Gantsho @ 12:18

Forgiveness is one of the biggest challenges people face because it requires one to let go of something or someone that has probably held them as a volunteer hostage for any given period of time.  It pre-empts moving on and that leads to new definitions and having to be an active participant in the fight to reclaim one’s power.  It also involves a struggle of sorts, whereas keeping a grudge gives one a comfortable crutch that invokes sympathy.  Victims are allowed to take time out in the functioning of society to lick their wounds and “recover”, all the while living in this responsibility-free comfort zone that keeps them willingly powerless. 

When someone wrongs you, you can shut them out so you don’t have to deal with them.  Their wronging you becomes an excuse for you to stay in bed, or the reason for failure, or even the cause in the effect of just about every other obstacle you “cannot” overcome.  The truth is that people always assume that it is easier to be the passenger in a car accident than it is to be the driver.  As a passenger, you are the obvious victim.  You have no blame to carry and though you may sympathise with the other casualties, you are allowed to pay them no mind and focus on your own pain.  The driver, on the other hand, carries the weight of the accident on his shoulders.  He is forced to deal with the effects of the accident in each of the casualties’ lives.  What we don’t realise though, is that in an accident, everyone is a victim, so as much as the passengers need to forgive the driver, the driver must also learn to forgive himself. 

And as difficult as it may be for one to forgive others, it is often a lot more difficult for one to forgive oneself.  When forgiving someone else, a lot of the time, all that is required is an apology, genuine remorse and some kind of indication that the person is trying to make amends.  In a situation where one is required to forgive oneself, however, that person is both the person seeking atonement, as well as the one giving it.  One has to accept blame for their part in the situation, and then they have to be willing to forgive themselves.  And assigning the blame is the part where most people get stuck. 

A friend of mine once lost a loved one in a car accident after having an
argument with him and demanding that he makes his way to her immediately.  He was in no condition to drive but got into the car anyways and never made it to her house. My friend has never forgiven herself for his death, part of the reason being that she blames herself for a decision he made.  It may sound cruel, but he was the one who drank those beers.  He got behind that wheel and he was the one who was speeding. Those were decisions he made and she should not hold herself ransom to them.  But like I said, that sounds cruel and we shouldn’t speak “ill” of the dead.

The point however is that if one blames themselves for something they had no control over, they can never truly forgive themselves.  They may learn to live with it, but they can never move on from it.  Assigning blame goes hand in hand with taking responsibility, and you can not take responsibility for anyone’s actions except your own.  My friend needs to forgive herself for pressurising him and for her role in the way things ended between them, because those things are a direct consequence of her decisions.  His death however, was an accident that she had no control over.

Equally challenging though, is the stage after assigning the blame.  Accepting that (in the words of Macbeth) “what is done is done and cannot be undone” is also an integral part of forgiving oneself.  My friend cannot change that argument so to hold on to it would be futile.  There is a prayer called the Serenity Prayer, often chanted by addicts and other people going through crippling situations.  It says:  “God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”  I think this prayer sums up the steps to forgiveness perfectly, because as simple as it sounds, we often get caught up in the things we cannot change and allow those things to make us believe that we cannot move forward.    That, in turn, allows us to sink into a comfort zone of self-pity, or resentment; and prevents us from living a fulfilled life.  Because regardless of how much sleep you lose over your ex’s philandering ways, or your father’s absence, or your rapists inhumanity; there is a chance that they are sleeping just fine.

There is a saying that:  to err is human but forgiveness is divine.  Everyone makes mistakes:  some more far-reaching than others; but that doesn’t necessarily make us bad people.  It just makes us human.  What defines character is how one responds to those mistakes.  It takes a divine character to forgive and the only person severely affected by your holding a grudge, is you.  If you allow yourself to be caged by situations that have passed (be they your own doing or caused by someone else), you can never truly spread your wings and soar to your destined heights.  In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran writes:  “You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief.  But rather when these things girdle you life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.”  Forgiveness is freedom.

 

*FIRST PUBLISHED BY http://www.consciousness.co.za/ *(October 2009)

 

We, the Black Diamonds

Filed under: From Consciousness straight to you — Vangi Gantsho @ 12:17

There is a lot of pressure on us as young people today, especially because of what our parents had to go through so that we may enjoy the freedoms we enjoy today.  We have an obligation to their blood, sweat and tears to do all the things they could not do and more.  To succeed where they could not compete and to triumph where they were forced to fail.  The thing about coming from a legacy of warriors and heroes is that you have to keep that flame burning.  You have to show them that it was not all in vein and that it is appreciated.  Our parents deserve to know that we will become the black diamonds they weathered us to become.  But success is not easy, and failure is unbearable.

A black diamond is a stone in a transitional carbon state between graphite and pure diamond.  Though rare and considered to be very beautiful, black diamonds are not as valuable as pure diamonds because of their coal insertions – an imperfection formed during crystal formation.  But in South Africa, when people hear the term Black Diamond, they most often think of flashy cars, BEE and expensive suits.  It conjures up an image of an exclusive club with a strict dress code and a big Right of Admission is Reserved sign on the door, keeping everyone who doesn’t fit that mould out. The Black Diamonds are said to represent an elite breed of young black people, earning at least R7 000 a month and collectively holding roughly a third of South Africa’s buying power.  Nearly half of these Black Diamonds are said to be found in Gauteng and live in previously “whites only” suburbs.  They are the Successful Ones

But success has different meanings to different people.  For some, it represents reaching a physical, financial (Black Diamond) status, whereas others attribute success to more abstract accomplishments such as spiritual, emotional or mental achievement.  In essence though, regardless of what one defines their success to be, it is a triumph over an obstacle.  A graduation, a promotion, a spiritual breakthrough or overcoming a crippling fear; success represents progression and an opening of new doors.  It is a fluid double-edged sword that can lead to further triumphs or painful downfalls.  And most importantly, it can never be achieved in isolation.  Personal targets are set according to exposure to external criteria and resources such as history, peers, current environments and religious doctrines.  The challenge is not to be pressurised by other people’s standards of success because what is good for one person is not necessarily good for another.   

According to a Nigerian proverb:  the axe forgets but the tree remembers, meaning when something significant happens, it is the one who is on the receiving end who remembers it the most.  For an axe, it is natural to strike a tree, but for the tree, the effects will linger on into the future.  It will require healing and growth and adjustment.  We are the fruits that fell off hacked trees; the not-yet diamonds.  Our heritage is full of coals and our parents’ dreams and struggles for us are the purest of diamonds.  Without forgetting, we should realise that we can’t change the nature of the axe, but we can learn to toughen up.  Our role is to remember to conquer.  To choose our battles wisely and realise that not all doors are worth walking through.  But most importantly, we should never over-value ourselves.

 

*FIRST PUBLISHED BY http://www.consciousness.co.za/ *(September 2009)

 

When the leaf falls to the ground, the tree gets the blame

Filed under: From Consciousness straight to you — Vangi Gantsho @ 12:15

There was a time when little children where little children and elders were elders.  A time when the lines were not blurred and the roles were defined.  Children were free to be children and it did take a village to raise a child.  Without even taking it back to pre-colonial days of living in the beautiful green villages of uQhunu, once upon a time there really was a world where women were safe (at home and on the street) and men were proud and strong and protective of their families.  But it seems those days are long gone.  Children are forced (and sadly at times, choose) to grow up too soon.  They are raised by All My Children, and when they have questions, instead of asking their parents or that cool auntie or malume down the road, they turn to Google.  All the while, the adults are chasing the rand, getting their nails done, sipping on cocktails and fighting the demons of their own insecurities, because they either got too much too soon, or gave everything and got nothing in return.  The Depression began long before the freedom days, and extends far beyond the price of bread and milk.

It’s true that every generation has its own challenges.  Our grandparents used to worry that their children would join the struggle (in one way or other) and they would lose them to the police or exile or taverns.  Their grandparents, before that, feared they would lose their children to colonialism.  That they would go to missions, wear suits and see their parents as uncivilised heathens.  Funny how time passes and not much changes.  Parents are still “old-fashioned”, going into exile is called brain-drain and SAB is not only one of the largest employers in the country, but it has also monopolised distribution and made us believe that their “social responsibility” programmes somewhat make up for the number of broken families, hungry households and abusive relationships it facilitates.  It must be said, though (and I may be bias here), our parents have it the hardest. They worry that their babies will be raped in their diapers and their teens will be so lost that, that they will try to “find” themselves in black labels, white powders and unloving thighs.  And just before they can let out a sigh of relief, they worry that they have raised young adults who will follow their dreams straight off the cliff:  a little naïve; too ambitious; and not at all prepared.

There is a song by Travellin Blak, where one of the artists says something along the lines of: kwakuthwa kusind’ abakhasayo, kodwa nabo bakhasa bedunisule; direct translation being they used to say it’s the ones who crawl who are safe, but even they crawl on their knees.  This, I think, is one of the most apt partial-descriptions of the world we live in – a terrifying thought considering that a society is judged by how it treats its most fragile members.  So when babies are raped or discarded in black bags, and one in every two women is in some kind abusive relationship, and grandparents are battered and abandoned; it makes me shudder to think how our society will be judged.  The truth is we are all scared, we are fighting our own demons and no one is safe – not even the innocent ones.  Our parents have a lot to worry about.  And a lot to answer for.

In Zambia, there is a saying that when the leaf falls to the ground, the tree gets the blame/ the shame goes to the tree.  There were days once, when elders provided wisdom and guidance to the young, all the while protecting and moulding.  A mother would reprimand any child that misbehaved because every child was her child; and a child knew better than to answer back to a grown up.  There were no question marks or grey areas, children were children and adults were adults and that was that.  Of course this was before the days of the scandalous musical icons, dubious politicians and rejuvenating toy boys.  It’s sad to say, but a young girl becomes a woman the minute her breasts begin to protrude, and sometimes before.  Cougars have left the wild and get their grooves back on high school beds, taking their lead from glorified paedophiles who pee on little girls and sleep with their HIV+ daughters (consensually or not).  Children are raised by villages of perversity that have the audacity to chastise the products of their insecurities and trap them into thinking that they are the messed up ones.  The young wear the sins of the old on their backs and these hand-me-downs give birth at fifteen, are divorced by twenty eight and die before thirty five.

Something went wrong somewhere, and we don’t know how to fix it.  We can’t go back and we don’t know how to move forward because this depression has us trapped.  It has us pointing fingers, and crying, and running, and bleeding, but never healing.  It has us hungry and lonely:  be it under zinc roofs, or behind white walls; this depression is us.  And we can’t run away from ourselves.  All we can do is believe.  In something or someone.  We need to believe that that moral compass is out the somewhere, in the Quaran, in the Bible or even somewhere out in the cosmos. We need to find it and when we have found it, we need to believe that it will guide us to someplace better.  Because we, as people, have shown that we do not have the answers.

 

*FIRST PUBLISHED BY http://www.consciousness.co.za/ *(August 2009)

 

Youth is wasted on the young

Filed under: From Consciousness straight to you — Vangi Gantsho @ 12:12

So how often have you heard your parents say something negative about the nature of young people today? About how lazy or unmotivated we are? Every time my mom puts on the TV and sees Julius Malema making some outlandish statement, I suddenly feel the need to take on the role of “defender of the young”! It’s as though I have to restore her faith in us and remind her that her mother said the same thing about her generation when she was young. The only major difference is that my mother comes from the generation of Hector Peterson and Steve Biko. Her peers changed the political system of SA and gave us suburbia and access to Melrose Arch; while we, are “ungrateful” and “apathetic” and basically forgetful of what it took to get us here. When my mother sees young people today, she sees three types of young people. First there are the bubble-dress or pink shirts, pointy shoe- wearing young people of Newscafé. The young women who drink with men old enough to be their fathers and the young men whose vanity has made them distant from their families and are consumed by get-to-the-top-NOW BEE deals. It’s safe to assume that most of these young people have graduated from somewhere within the commerce faculty. They went to the UCTs and WITs and wear their 2% status as a label on their collars. These are the young people who are ambitious but drowning in debt.

They are aware of what it takes to live “the good life” and pursue it with a hunger that (I think) should be quite commendable, even though it is at times misguided. Then she sees the back-pack-carrying, all-star-wearing, turban-wrapping, joint-rolling artists of Newtown. These are the young soul sistas and brothas who carry the weight of the world on their backs and in their books. They can “see through” the “propaganda” of the “system” and seek to emancipate our minds. They are the ones who have dropped out of tertiary because they are tired of being “brainwashed” and cannot stand the materialistic nature of the world but ironically are the ones who carry the latest cameras and digital equipment because they understand that we need to start documenting our own history
as a people. And thirdly, my mother sees the politically active ones. The young Malema followers who know the ins and outs of South African history better than everyone in Luthuli House combined. These are the ones who run for SRC, encourage their peers to vote and direct so much of their energies towards fighting the inequalities of society and seeking economic freedom for all, that they lose track of time and soon realise that they have spend eight years on a bachelor’s degree.

These young people also want to be able to afford Newscafé, and can see how the system is intent on holding them down. They fight for everyone, because “injury to one is injury to all”. And what troubles my mother (as it should), is that the only one who is actually willing to study seems to her la vide loco-loving son who she barely gets to see because he works 16hours a day to pay off his maxed out credit card. I can only imagine how scary it must be to be a parent today. To be the mother who loses her child to Taboo and finds herself having a relationship with her son’s voicemail. When all of a sudden she has to make an appointment to see him and the only calls she gets are on Mother’s Day, Christmas and her birthday. Naturally, she worries that her daughter will waste away on the pavements of Newtown with a book full of stories and no food (or shampoo) because her little girl’s so busy explaining how everyone should fight the “system”, she hasn’t realised that the delete button is somewhere at the top. And what of the poor mother who spends sleepless nights worried that her poor baby (poor being the operative word) will fight for everyone’s freedom except his own? That he will get everyone else academically or financially UN-excluded; only to fall victim to the same fate because he forgot what he was originally sent there to do. But you know what? I am TIRED of hearing it!! Honestly I am!! Sure, there’s plenty of room for improvement and I think we do need to examine ourselves as young people, but I’m not completely sure that this is not just a case of the apple not falling too far from the tree. I mean, it’s our fathers who are sugar-daddies, Mzwakhe Mbuli is a broke drunk and Zuma doesn’t have a degree but he is president. Oooh, it would be so easy for me to go down this road right now. We can blame our parents for the way they brought us up and for being bad examples, but what good would that do? Not much really.

Because it wouldn’t change the fact that we are slipping down the same path and WE are the ones our actions will hurt the most. If we can’t be balanced human beings, then we will fall short of our own glory. The truth is, most often than not, youth is wasted on the young. We have all this energy and zeal for life, but often we lack direction… and balance. So those too busy enjoying and being trapped by the cycle of credit will burn out. The story-tellers who think they exist outside the system will become forgotten and the naive revolutionaries will become bitter and disheartened. The thing is there is nothing wrong with wanting to have it all! We deserve it. Our parents fought for it. Why the heck not?! So as we enter Youth Month, perhaps it’s time we blocked out those critics’ voices and started taking charge of the truths within our own lives. We need to carve out our own little spots in society and be smart about things. If you can walk in those pointy shoes and want to live that fast life and drive that fast car, then budget and balance! Budget your finances so you don’t spend your whole pay-check paying off a credit card that you are going to end up maxing out all over again anyways.

Balance your time at work, with your friends and with your family… you can have it all. If you have been blessed with the gift of translating life into art, then let your art be your bread. Know that you do not exist in an island so you have to eat and make money. Hone your art, perfect it and let it be your sustenance. Finish studying – even if it is just so you can expose the lies in those text books – be professional about it… how great it is to find your passion and let that be what gets you through from day to day. And if your calling is fighting for change: get to know your enemy. The tertiary institution is a complex monster; graduate (so your peers can believe it is possible), don’t lose sight of the struggle and be better than the politician who failed you…. School is a tool, not a maze. I think we all need to be holistic in our approaches. Feed the mind body and soul: get our spiritual footing; be healthy; study; and vote. We need to realise that we are all connected and though certain aspects are amplified in others, we are ALL beautifully human. Spiritual, mental and emotional poverty have NO place in youth. Emancipate!

 

*FIRST PUBLISHED BY http://www.consciousness.co.za/ *( July 2009)

 

Ignorance is being content with stupidity

Filed under: From Consciousness straight to you — Vangi Gantsho @ 12:10

A friend of mine once told me, “Ignorance is being content with stupidity”.  That it is easier to stay in the dark than it is to get up and switch on the light.  Nowadays, we have more access to knowledge and information than our parents ever did, but we don’t act like it.  Instead, we pick up a few stompies here and there, do a bit of creative recycling and pass them off as our own versions of “truth”.  But it isn’t enough for us that we remain ignorant.  We have to spread it – because misery loves company.  So we talk on fast-forward, emphasise a few punch lines here and there, and leave everyone wowed and uninformed. And we get away with it too.  By surrounding ourselves with groupies, who are too swooned by our smooth eloquent voices to question us, we become authorities on truths that don’t exist.

A few years ago, Metro Fm launched a campaign called Blacks Do Read in order to encourage black people to read books.  What a wonderful initiative it was.  In a time of Mtv, DStv and Facebook, (real) books have become somewhat redundant. People (black, white and other) would much rather hire the movie than take out the book, because the movie will only take an average of one and a half hours, while the book could take a few days.  What people do not realise though, is that if they just watch the movie White Oleander, for example, they will never get to meet Olivia and will forever be robbed of how much of an influence she had on Astrid’s life.  And if missing out on entire scenes and characters is not distressing enough, there are the entire stories that will be missed because their movies that have not been made yet.  A Long Walk to Freedom, A Dream Deferred, and Over the Engeli Mountains… the list is endless.  If not from books, how will people ever know the true stories behind these incredible leaders of our past?  Steve Biko will continue to be misunderstood, with some continuing to use his name to justify their militancy or reverse racism, and they will never truly know what Black Consciousness means because the movie has not yet been made.  (Cry Freedom is not a biographical film about Steve Biko.  It is a story about Donald Woods and his relationship with Biko and South Africa as a whole) The point is though, that with so many options available at our disposal, there is absolutely no excuse for people not to read:  libraries are free for those who cannot afford their own books; there are electronic books for those techno-addicts who won’t read anything that is not on a screen; and for those who just don’t know where to start, how but starting a book club with friends.

In addition to the wonderful world of books, we have access to one of the best sources of knowledge that exists out there:  our elders.  They are the ones who tell the stories that have been passed down from generation to generation and have not yet been put on paper.  Our grandfathers and great uncles can trace our ancestry back to centuries our young minds cannot even begin to imagine and tell us the tales that history and school have not yet heard.  Our mothers will tell us about the unsung heroines of the struggle who went from prison to prison looking for their husbands, women who were part of that vision in Lusaka and spent many nights on the streets of London while waiting for word that they could come home.  Our grandmothers hold some of the best kept secrets out there and if we would only listen, they would share the old wives tales that have no western rooting but have been tried and tested for generations before us.  From them, we will learn that when a new-born baby has a rash (ishimnca), the mother should crush a bark called umthombothi until it becomes a paste and rub the baby’s whole body with it to make the rash go away. And that the secrets of eternal youth are not found in Clinique bottles, but in simple things like calamine, spring water and sunlight soap – which would explain why we look nothing like our mothers did when they we our age.  And the most amazing thing about these stories is that they are free and everywhere.  From the bab’omdala next door to the tannie on the bus, they all have a story to share – if we would only turn our iPods off for a few minutes to listen.  So there really is no excuse for being ignorant in this day and age. 

Sadly though, ignorance can be found everywhere, most concerning of which is in the arts:  delicately woven into colourful turbans, wrapped in A-line skirts and neatly packed into back-packs, ready to be battered on stages throughout the country.  The arts have always been a love of mine (especially literary arts), but it has to be said:  there are way too many ignorant artists out there.  Many of them are so busy worrying about looking like artists that they forget to actually be artists, and everyone wants to be a poet but no one is willing to read a poem.  There are just too many people who claim to be Biko-ists but have never even so much as opened I Write What I Like, or people who wear Che Guevara t-shirts but have no idea who he was!  It sounds absurd, but there are actually “artists” who get on stage and speak of on an Africa they know nothing about.  They profess a love for leaders whose names they picked up from a few conversations here and there, and convert to religions they don’t understand – there is more to being Rastafarians than growing dreads, rolling a joint and feel arie!  And the saddest thing about all of this is that art is meant to be a reflection of society.

It really is not that difficult to find time to read a book, of any genre.  Whether you are on a taxi on your way to work (or school), or in bed having trouble sleeping, there is nothing like a good book to keep you company.  If you are a science fiction fanatic who has seen all the Star Wars movies, there is a sci-fi section in the library just waiting to be explored.  And if Lord of the Rings is more your thing, the book comes in a 3in1 package.  Literature does more than just expose one to beautiful stories (and Mills and Boons is NOT literature).  It exposes us to diction and sentence structure while stimulating the imagination.  Healthy imaginations can visualise and articulate their dreams, and knowledge can make dreams possible.  As for our elders, you have to admit:  they do tell the most interesting stories.  And with all the crazy hustle and bustle of today, how lovely it is to just sit back and listen to iintsomi (bedtime stories) and wonderful tales of times that have long passed.  To have first-hand access to this knowledge will one day be the equivalent of actually watching the Khoisan paint the walls of the Cango caves, and that is probably one of the greatest blessings being raised by a community can ever give to a child.

*FIRST PUBLISHED BY http://www.consciousness.co.za/ *( June 2009)

 

How will History remember You?

Filed under: From Consciousness straight to you — Vangi Gantsho @ 12:08

It is a common theory that:  what is has been and shall be again.  That we are all part of the inescapable cycle of the past, the present and the future (or as my favourite lion cub would say:  the Circle of Life).  Through experience, blood, physical space and even oxygen, we are all connected to those who came before us, those around us, and those to follow us.  And so we should realise that: when we choose to regress into new-colonialism, we steal from our parents; when we become complacent (or just downright lazy), we steal from ourselves; and when we continue to ignore The Inconvenient Truth, we are stealing from our children.  It is this realisation that should guide us in the decisions we make and the paths we choose.  In the movie The Emperor’s Club, Kevin Kline’s character asks his scholars two incredibly profound questions:  “What will your contribution be?  How will History remember You?”  Because history is a constant; and as much as we are products of it, so too are we its creators.

 We are all products of something:  victims of someone’s struggle.  Big Whoop!  That does not mean we should we allow ourselves to be hostages of history.  So the girl who drinks with old married men at FTV says that she does it because she has “daddy issues”:  her father left them when she was a little girl.  It has nothing to do with her being a gold-digger who would rather lie on her back than stand on her feet.  And the unemployed brother in the tavern says he just can’t catch a break because his mother was a previously disadvantaged individual – but refuses to admit that he wasted the little money she could scrape up to send him to school and opted to drop out in hopes of becoming the next Zola 7.  Who by the way is a one in a million exception.  It is undeniable that our pasts mark our starting points, favouring others more than some.  But we need to move beyond this excuse.  We need do what we can, not what we want, to get to that finish line as winners.  If you are the back of the line, you need to walk twice as fast, talk twice as loud and make sure that you catch up:  without forgetting that we cannot escape karma; no matter how unfair it seems.  Because, although our pasts can teach us many valuable lessons, they can also lead us to dead ends.  History has a way of reaching out to us with the promise of understanding and direction, then leaving us drowning in self-pity… all the while looking for a new victim to justify.  For the young, the black, the female, the African:  and anyone else who has ever been oppressed as a collective; history can be a sinkhole, because oppression is the number one ingredient in victim.

How many people do you know with “potential”?  Of those people, how many of them are working towards fulfilling that potential?  Not enough, if you ask me.  So much of our potential is wasted on procrastination and laziness and bragging.  We imagine stories that will never be written.  We plan holidays that we will never afford.  We fantasise about relationships that will never exist.  All because we never quite got around to picking up that pen, or getting that job, or dealing with that insecurity.   We have dreams that are born “in the dark alleys of our minds” but will never see the light of day, because we have become content with having come so far considering our circumstances.  But we haven’t.  Because we have not actually moved away from them.    For as long as we allow this complacency to rob us of our greatness, we will always be could-haves: that young man who could have been the next Zola 7 but never actually became anything.  Zola saw his own potential, he acknowledged his circumstances and he became the success story he is the good old fashioned way:  hard work.  Not by sitting in a tavern and throwing a pity-party.  My mother always reminds me that there is no such thing as a free lunch:  that smarts can only take me so far, but at some point my hands have to chip in as well.

The Inconvenient Truth is a documentary about how we have abused our environment to such an extent that our children may have nothing to inherit.  It painfully describes how the temperatures are intensifying, animals are becoming extinct and vegetation is changing because we refuse to become environmentally friendly.  It goes further to tell of how we refuse to acknowledge and rectify our selfish behaviour because it is too inconvenient for us.  We are too lazy to turn off the light switch when we leave the room or take our chargers out of the circuit when we’re done… so we sacrifice our children’s rightful inheritance instead.  This documentary may have environmental content, but its inconvenient truth is far more extensive than that.  We steal from our children everyday, in so many different ways.  When we don’t fulfil our potential and remain stagnant victims of past oppression, we steal their right to a fresh start and the continuation of progress.  When we dishonour our parent’s struggles with our complacency and laziness, we steal our children’s right to the chance to redeem it. 

There is a West African saying says:  “for as long as lions do not have their own historians, history will always be told to glorify the hunter”.  We have to write our own history.  Define ourselves according to our own terms.  We owe it to ourselves to do better and be better.  One by one, one step at a time, we need to become the young pride our parents bore.  We need to step out of those taverns and send those sugar-daddies back to their wives.  The cycle of victims stops here.  With us.  And when all is said and done, we need to take our chargers out of the circuit, write those books, and photograph those holidays, so history may have fond memories of the time it spent with us.   

 

*FIRST PUBLISHED BY http://www.consciousness.co.za/ *( June 16 2009)

 

Birds of a feather

Filed under: From Consciousness straight to you — Vangi Gantsho @ 11:00

It is a fact that the world classifies people, separating: the attractive people from the not-so-attractive; the intelligent people from the not-so-intelligent; and so on. Imaginary lines are drawn, creating fraternizing barriers which are at times virtually impossible to permeate. Now before you think I am going all Mean Girls on you, consider for a second that there is some truth in this cheesy Hollywood teen movie. It may not be as childish as the slackers on the grass, and the nerds in front of the science labs, but it’s definitely something that exists. Think about terms such as cheese-girls and guluvas, BEEs and comrades, or conservatives and liberals. Instead of grass cafeterias and gym halls, we have suburbs, rural areas and ekasi. Then we have the Coffis, and the Market Theatres; and in the stadiums: the box seats and the stands… Geography marks the boarders of interaction, separating the “elite” from the “plebs”. Society elevates beautiful people, expecting them to interbreed so as to create more pure-breed beauties, and the same applies to clever people, rich people, professionals, artists et cetera. The saying has changed to birds of a feather should flock together and it is assumed that people are one-dimensional and easy to pigeonhole like that. The truth however, is far more complex than the neat little boxes society would have us fit into.

People are a lot more multi-faceted than that. We are made up of many different characteristics, each of which contributing to the holistic beings we are. And this does not just refer to the physical, mental and spiritual components. It extends to our professions, our hobbies, relationships and even the neighbourhoods we choose to live in. Just as a man can be a husband in his house, a director in the office and a beginner on the golf course, so too can a people exist within multiple quadrants. There are people who live outside the stereotypes of their chosen neighbourhoods and whose professions are far removed from their hobbies and passions. Hence there are stockbrokers who paint beautiful portraits, socially impaired brainiacs and insecure beauty queens. It is assumed, however, that professionalism and art are at loggerheads, that book smarts and street smarts are the same smarts and that beautiful people are flawless because society has no place for antithesis’s. And so we label these boxes, paint them with stereotypes and pack them into hierarchies, in hopes that this will bring about order in this chaotic world of social relations. Those who crossover, or fit into more than one box become exceptions, boarders are established, visas are required and some are happy to live in their little boxes without ever having to wonder what life is like outside their classifications. As a young girl, my father used to tell me that the world was my backyard and that I should play in it.

He told me that I should travel every chance I get, never judge a people according to my standards and always know that there is plenty to learn. And so I decided that it would be my mission to see more, experience more and taste more. This would in turn allow me to grow more, learn more and eventually love more. Travelling opens up one’s mind to new cultures and ways of living. When we encounter different people, they affect us somehow. They teach us lessons through both negative and positive experiences, leaving us matured somehow. These encounters, however, also expose our judgmental nature. We judge people’s food, customs, and ways of thinking; classifying them as “backward” or “primitive” and thus not worth our time. Meeting an Egyptian Muslim woman opened my eyes to a misunderstood culture of respect: for others, ourselves and all things life. It allowed me to see past American propaganda and realise that these are women who are proud to be a part of this way of life. They are women who believe that this is how things are meant to be. It also taught me that there are also those who don’t. As with any culture there are those who wish to “break away” from it all. The same goes for Swati women, or inland (orthodox) Zulu women. Travelling doesn’t necessarily have to involve a foreign country though (or a short left for that matter). It could be as simple as a conversation with someone you would never ordinarily talk to, or a visit to a place you wouldn’t normally visit. Who knows, you might just enjoy it. But if you don’t, that’s ok too. Of his journey to Lagos, Moky Makura said: “Nigeria is not for everyone, but then again, neither is bungee-jumping”. So there is a difference between understanding something and not liking it, and dismissing something you know nothing about. The former can be viewed as a preference while the latter is clearly a case of ignorance which informs prejudice.

Prejudice produces hierarchies which lead to discrimination: xenophobia; racism; sexism; ageism… Prejudice leads to young boys carrying younger corpses, and innocent displaced men with burning necklaces. But that is in its collective extremity. Prejudice also leads to missing out on Bafana Bafana vs. Brazil because you don’t have box tickets, or never truly knowing the love of your life because you couldn’t get passed his spotie (hat). When we refuse to step outside our boarders, we miss out on the joys and experiences that make life worthwhile. We make assumptions about what things are like out there and we miss out on the truth. Curiosity is the scent that makes us hunger for life. It forces us outside our doors into the big bad world. All of a sudden we find ourselves questioning stereotypes and breaking out of our boxes. We begin to realise that as people, we are all different patterns of the same cloth. A drive from Sandton, across the robots into Alexander will reveal a familiar zealous spirit enduring, enjoying and at times escaping its realities of life. A curious writer peaking into the windows of corporate South Africa will recognise a passion for an unfamiliar art. And an unlikely conversation between a street-sweeper and an overworked executive will expose two tired men trying to keep their families afloat. Through these minor journeys, one will begin to see that there is no place for elitism, and that there are no such things as pure-breeds. Most importantly, though, respect will grow: freely and without shame. Those small boxes will merge into a colourful globe and birds will be birds; free to flock wherever and with whomever they please because the skies have no boarders and are theirs for the enjoying.

 

*FIRST PUBLISHED BY http://www.consciousness.co.za/ *  (July 2009)

 

 
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