Monday, April 30, 2007

The Sowetan's (bad) dream

In 1963 Martin Luther King gave his famous 'I have a dream' speech, a stirring vision of a day when freedom and liberation would reign in the then segregated United States.

With the celebration of Freedom Day in South Africa on April 27, The Sowetan, a newspaper mainly serving readers from Soweto, launched an ad campaign borrowing from King's speech. However, it deliberately twists the message into one of despair and black (no pun intended...) humor. Thus instead of dreaming of a day of freedom and liberation, it instead 'dreams' of dark days of murder, rape, racial injustice, crime and grime. The narrator in the ad uses the sermon-like style of Martin Luther King, with a hint of an American accent, but the dialogue and accent remains clearly recognizable as South-African. The punch line challenges the listener with a question:

"What have you done with your freedom South Africa? Don't let it go to waste. Cherish it"

Calling the ad brilliant is perhaps over the top. It's not the most original idea ever 'dreamt' up. But it is brave, a quality that one would like to associate with our news media.

So when the SABC banned the ad it just added to a growing discomfort with the public (state?) broadcaster. Surely the powers that be at the SABC have the brains and insight to understand that the Sowetan's ad does not amount to hate speech (as it implied)? What is the SABC doing to our freedom in South Africa? It seems more and more that for the SABC our freedom does not include the free flow of information?

Oh no, our big broadcasting brother will protect us against unsavory information. It is our good fortune that the SABC has a strong ideological base. It will protect all of us, who are not mature enough to do so for ourselves, against the bad bad bad (anti-revolutionary) ideas out there. Heil the SABC! Heil the ANC! Heil Mbeki! HEIL SNUKI*!

*Ok, I know Snuki wasn't necessarily involved this time round, but heil Snuki anyway...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Am I in fact FEmale?

Last time I checked I was male, but the Gender Genie seems to think otherwise... I read about the Genie on Pierre de Vos' blog and in a moment of triviality decided to give it a try. First I submitted the text from my most recent post on this blog. The Genie pronounced me to be 'female', but it did indicate that the submitted text fell short of the ideal 500+ word count. I breathed a sigh of relief and promptly copied a longer piece of text (833 words) from a previous post on this blog. Oh dear, I'm still female! Should I be worried?

My female score = 1383 and male score = 1197. My, my...

To white or not to white, whitey?

There are many issues in contemporary South Africa that are discussed, pondered, thought and fought about. As always the topics most heatedly debated are the negative ones - crime & corruption, aids, etc. For white South Africans an issue that is rarely spoken about by name, but which often lurks underneath the surface of discussions by another name, is identity. Being white and living in Africa can cause a bit of an identity crisis. Am I 'European', 'western', 'African', etc.? I do have some strong opinions in this regards, but won't touch on those in this post.

I noticed an opinion piece by Marianne Thamm on News.24 today, dealing with one aspect of the identity issue. My wife buys the Fair Lady from time to time and Marianne has a regular column in the Magazine. Whenever the Fair Lady makes its appearance in our house, I always page to her column first. She is an extremely sharp thinker and excellent writer. Her columns dealing with contemporary matters is always worth a read. She has a way of slaughtering holy cows with wit and sarcasm. I have seldom found myself differing from her opinions and when I did it was with some discomfort... may she be onto something here?

The News.24 column, it may have been published elsewhere first, is titled White Like Me. The title alone may be interpreted as a form of sarcastic social commentary. Black Like Me is a range of beauty care products launched in the 80's (I believe). Back then it was a statement in itself, proudly proclaiming that 'black is beautiful' in a time that Apartheid (white supremacy) was the order of the day. Sarcastically stating 'White Like Me' in present day South Africa packs quite a punch. What does it mean to be 'white like me', should it mean something?

That it is in fact an emotive issue is clear in the amount of comments the relatively short column drew. It represents a small sample of the way in which the identity question is dealt with in the larger (white) society. Read Thamm's article and contribute your 2-cent's worth if you feel like it.