Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kevin Pietersen giving South African whiteys a bad name

It's a sad fact that South Africa loose thousands of very talented and skilled citizens to emigration every year. This is partly due to globalization, which makes professionals and otherwise skilled individuals globally mobile. In South Africa's case other factors that play a role include crime, affirmative action, unwillingness to live under a black government (racism), etc.

Around the time of the fall of Apartheid (1994) the term "the Chicken Run" was coined. The Chicken Run basically referred to white South Africans who were scared out of their wits by the prospect of living under black rule. The writing was on the wall for Apartheid. This had definite implications for the advantaged life that whites have enjoyed for 300 years of colonialism (Dutch & British) and 40 years of Apartheid. Many wealthy and skilled whites hastily packed their bags. Most headed for Britain, as many English speaking South Africans still have British passports. Others headed for Australia ('packing for Perth'), New Zealand and the US. At one time a bumper sticker appeared reading: "Will the last person to leave the country please switch off the lights"...

Luckily many more whiteys decided to stay put. Many English speaking South Africans have no wish to leave the country of their birth and would love nothing more than to raise their kids on African soil. Afrikaans speaking whites (mostly referred to as 'Afrikaners') find themselves in a rather unique position. A large portion of them have been living in the country for over 300 years. In that time Afrikaans evolved from Dutch, German, French, Malay and other influences to a distinctively separate language. While it is still close to Dutch and Flemish it is a language in its own right. Afrikaans culture went through a similar process of evolution and is totally separate from the original Dutch culture, as well as others which influenced its development. The simple fact is that Afrikaners cannot easily assimilate into the Dutch culture as many may believe. I for one do not feel at home in the Netherlands at all. On visits there I do find the similarities in language intriguing, but the land could not feel more foreign. Thus, Afrikaners who joined the Chicken Run tend to stand out as immigrants with a strangely different culture wherever they choose to relocate to.

This is not to say that Afrikaners can't successfully start a life outside of South Africa. Most Afrikaners have enjoyed a privileged education. The Afrikaners also has a long history of rising above difficult circumstances. Thus many Afrikaners are able to succeed, even in difficult circumstances that may be foreign to them. The issue is rather whether they will feel at home anywhere else, but in South Africa? In my mind the answer in the majority of cases is a resounding NO WAYS.

In the end the vast majority of whites chose to remain in the country, most because they would never consider leaving anyway and some because they did not have the financial means to leave. Many whites in the country have developed a extremely strong 'new South Africa' patriotism. I believe most has no longing for the 'old' South Africa whatsoever. However, an uncomfortably large number of whites still view the country through thick racist spectacles. Crime is not only an unacceptable fact of life, it is simply 'proof that blacks can't manage anything' (sic). The same goes for, admittedly huge, problems regarding school education, the beleaguered struggle against Aids, way too much corruption, etc. This last racist grouping cannot talk about these serious scourges without race entering the picture, it's like a badly prepared gravy poured over your beef. Whether you like the beef as is or not, they can be trusted to always spoil the meal by pouring the gravy of race (blacks this and that) over your meal...

One of the ironies of present day South Africa is witnessing how national sports can unite not only different races in their mutual passion, but also racist and non-racist. Few things peeve white South Africans more than having their national teams face South African born opposition. We absolutely 'hate' the likes of Clive Rathbone and Kevin Pieterson. These guys are excellent sportsmen, but how on earth can they be playing for a team other than South Africa? This country gave them only love and tender care in their formative years. Rathbone played in, and celebrated with, the victorious (South African) under 21 world cup winning rugby team. Everyone was looking forward to seeing, among others, Rathbone move on to the senior squad (the Springbok rugby team). How on earth can he pull the Australian jersey over his head to face his former compatriots and not feel like a COMPLETE FAKE, dare we say - a traitor? To add insult to injury the other half of the centre-pair is South African born as well.

However, where South African sports lovers completely loose any sympathy, not that much is left to start with, is when these fools start bad-mouthing the country that raised them and nurtured their skills. Finally, if you then have the complete lack of style or brains to give a South African crowd the middle finger you should seriously consider never touring South Africa again - ever. If you then feel aggrieved getting boo-ed by capacity crowds whenever you do something on the sport field, good or bad, then all hope is lost. You've lost the plot mate.

Archie Henderson plays to these kind of feelings in his column in News 24 (excerpt and hyperlink below). I could not agree more with his final paragraph: "But good luck to KP ((Kevin Pieterson)). He is a rare talent, he is also a real 'windgat' ((blow hole)) - and he is good for the game. But he should just stop being such a cry baby. He gives the rest of us whiteys a bad name."

'Let your bat do the talking': "Archie Henderson.
Kevin Pietersen is a modern South African tragedy.
It has less to do with South Africa's perceived unrequited love for the man, or his alleged victimisation than with his attitude towards the land of his birth. "

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Our hopes are being destroyed

The article lower down (with hyperlink) refers. Tim Modise is a well respected talk-show host and current affairs anchor person. He made his appearance on the national broadcaster's English television channel in the last years of apartheid (early 90's), as the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) grudgingly started reflecting the change that was underway in the country. Modise has a pleasant persona and quickly gathered quite a following. After a few years at the Corporation he faced the typical dilemma that many popular talk-show hosts / anchor persons have to grapple with, how long do I want to do this? If you think about it, these kind of positions probably loose their appeal quite quickly. To a large extent you're a figure head. Yes, you have to be able to think on your feet and have good interviewing skills. But all the challenging preparation, digging, research, etc. is done by someone else.

Modise was then appointed as chairperson for the Proudly South African Campaign that got of the ground a couple of years ago.

I find his article (see link below) both encouraging and perplexing. The encouraging bit is that a prominent black individual is highlighting serious issues that faces not only black South Africans, but do impact hugely specifically on that section of our nation. He asks critical questions about (black) African culture. It is not a popular line to take and for that he must be commended. Modise points out in no uncertain terms that black males, in his view, have become the 'bogeymen' of their own people. In his guest column he deals mostly with the position of women and their victimisation through heinous crimes such as spousal abuse, rape and murder.

What I find perplexing is his proposed remedy. I find it strange that he focus exclusively on males when it comes to addressing the above scourges. In his column it seems to be the male population that has failed society and it is the same section of our society that is called upon to remedy the situation. All of this has merit. But what about women? Is a view of society / community that places power and responsibility exclusively in the hands of men not part of the problem? I would argue that elevating women in terms of their position in society is a crucial ingredient in all of this. If women are to be the powerless recipients of all things good, rather than taking control of their own destinies - can we realistically expect any improvement?

My view is that the hierarchal position that men is entitled to in traditional patriarchal African culture is a fundamental part of this problem. The patriarchal approach to society is of course not unique to (black) African culture. It is very much present in the Afrikaans community in which I was raised. However, traditional (black) African culture seems to trump everyone else in this respect. I assume that Modise has simply chosen to address black males in his article and does not necessarily exclude women from the issue. However, in the broader debate it is crucial that the emancipation of women should be placed centre stage.

Our hopes are being destroyed: "I deeply appreciate that I have been given this opportunity to reflect on developments in the public arena as well as on current affairs in general. I suppose this will give me an opportunity to reflect on what our society talks about on radio and television as I enjoy a sort of front row seat into the psyche of our nation.

I was approached to write this column during the month of August, a month when our country, correctly, commemorated the role played by women in the struggle for justice and freedom.

The usual but unflattering issues were again highlighted. Women living in abusive relationships. Women living in fear of violence and being raped. Women still not socially and economically empowered enough to determine power relations in the scary era of the rapacious HIV and Aids pandemic. The era where the dominant family structure is the single-parent-mother-headed home.

Fifty years before, women had marched for justice and freedom, yet they were still living in fear of, this time, their own brothers and fathers. They were now more terrified and angry with the very men who made it part of the democratic state's agenda to have women empowered and represented fully in all spheres of society.

These observations made me ask troubled questions. Why would the men who historically have been the custodians of the fate of the African people become the bogeymen of their own people? These are men who for centuries negotiated difficult and hostile environments to create communities and cultures that sustain up to today."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

CO2: Humans to blame

The caption above comes from an article posted in News24.com today. My reaction - what's new?

This is not because I'm skeptical of the whole global warming concept, quite the opposite. I'm in fact flabbergasted that some world leaders still bristle at acknowledging the fact of global warming, and the policy implications thereof. Of course, therein lies the rub (policy implications). I'm afraid when considering this issue, the US's President Bush comes to mind most prominently. Which big-business-serving-president in his right mind would seriously consider conservation-based policies that may make life slightly more complicated for some of his main constituents?

But will reality eventually enter the current White House Administration's decision making process on this issue, can one dare hope for that? Many commentators have ventured strategies on how Pres. Bush can secure a lasting positive legacy. They play this game in the context of perceived failures in engaging in, and the management of, the Iraq War; the questionable approach to the 'war on terror'; domestic policies; etc. I for one, would love to see President Bush opt for taking the lead with a bold, principled and fact-based approach to addressing the very real issue of climate change.

Don't get your hopes up... I cannot see an administration that is hell bent on defeating the opposition at every turn, politicking and media-spinning every issue, being interested in following sound logic when deciding on this very important issue. The problem is not only that the policy implications of climate change is difficult to face, it is also a pet subject of the opposition party - making it a very unattractive issue to embrace.

One possible glimmer of hope is the sprinkling of Christian religious leaders in the US that are starting to embrace the issue of global warming from a bible-based angle. In addition to big business, bible-belt-America is an important constituent for the Bush administration. However, it seems like too many American Christian (evangelical) congregations are still hung-up with casting the Iraq endeavor as a religious calling.

While politicians haggle and struggle to hang on to votes (and money) climate change will slowly but surely continue. When will it be too late? The problem is that while scientists are finding new sources to prove the existence of global warming, from every conceivable angle, no one can say for sure when the first domino will fall to indicate the proverbial point-of-no-return. When do we reach the point when climate change has affected so many different natural systems, wiped out so many species, that life as we know it is doomed? Even though that damnation may play out over multiple life times.

For me the obvious approach should be to avoid that point by all means possible. It requires radical and bold political leadership from world leaders. If we don't know when we'll reach this point, if we haven't already, why take the risk of crossing it? It is mind-boggling that humanity can act so passively in the face of such a major risk.

I did hear an interesting comment in a discussion on this issue recently. The speaker said that if global warming lead to an environmental catastrophe, eventually after a few millennia or longer, Earth will probably recover. However, humanity will not be around to witness the recovery.

In such a scenario I can imagine our planet being quite well off...

CO2: Humans to blame: "Norwich - Air from the oldest ice core confirms human activity has increased the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere to levels not seen for hundreds of thousands of years, scientists said on Monday.

Bubbles of air in the 800 000-year-old ice, drilled in the Antarctic, show levels of CO2 changing with the climate. But the present levels are out of the previous range.

'It is from air bubbles that we know for sure that carbon dioxide has increased by about 35% in the last 200 years,' said Dr Eric Wolff of the British Antarctic Survey and the leader of the science team for the 10-nation European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica.

'Before the last 200 years, which man has been influencing, it was pretty steady,' he added."