sa_flag.jpg1. THE MIRACLE COUNTRY
2. The ANC
3. The opposition parties
4. The people

1. THE MIRACLE COUNTRY

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First let me say I see South Africa as The Miracle Country. Never in my lifetime has how bloody the struggle for democracy usually is been more evident than in Iraq right now.

My knowledge of history isn’t brilliant it being more a hobby than a serious study but I am hard pressed to think of another country that reached democracy peacefully. Well, fairly peacefully. England: war. France: revolution. America: 2 wars. We had 20 years of bombings aimed mostly at infrastructure, not people, but nothing compared to what these countries and much of Africa, Europe, South America or Asia has had to endure to achieve the same.

A minority population in a cushy position under a controlled media that had been telling them for 40 years that should they give up their power they would be murdered in their beds or, at best, lose everything they had voted to give up that power simply because it was the right thing to do. The did the right thing and decided to let the chips fall where they may.

If that wasn’t miracle enough the majority population, when they reached power, took no retribution for what was essentially 40 years of slavery. An essentially communist movement looked at the world and saw communism failing and moved their ethos toward social capitalism.

Rather than mass trials, death penalties or jail sentences for the Apartheid Regime we had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The principle being that the truth was more important than punishment. Political Crimes on both sides would be forgiven if they were confessed and proved politically motivated rather than for self-gain.

Wealth was not torn from the hands that held it but instead affirmative action was adopted to make sure we did not end up in a future revolution. The government turned to the population and asked for patience for change. This after 40 years of struggle and, what’s more, they got it. Radical parties like the PAC who want immediate redistribution of wealth or the FF who want a return to white power have decreased in power since our 1994 elections, not increased.

This newly formed democratic government set up a police force to police itself. A unit dedicated to corruption the like of which I am hard put to find in existence anywhere else in the world. A force which really investigates and really gets convictions. We have jailed dishonest politicians and fired our deputy president on corruption charges. How many countries can say the same in recent years?

I do not want you to get the impression that South Africa is perfect, some Utopian Ideal, because it is not. Far from it. But regardless of our faults we must not forget our Miracle. The Miracle that is the people of this country- of all colours and religious convictions. People who have made decisions with reasoned brains regardless of their education. People who have proved that by their nature they are concerned with the welfare of their neighbour. People who are trusting but not stupidly so. A people who watch their government with an eagle eye and implement the basic, correct, question of Democracy so perfectly put into words by Janet Jackson many years ago.

“What have you done for ME lately?”

..part 2, The African National Congress to follow.

Haywire soldiers

February 23, 2007

iraq-girlgun.jpgYou send a man to a foreign country with a great big gun. Before that you have spent between 2 months and a number of years teaching him how to kill other human beings in as many different ways as possible. He arrives in a war zone and has to kill to survive. Mostly he tries to just kill people who want to cause him harm but, in an urban environment, he will end up accidentally killing the odd civilian as well. As well as civilians who aren’t odd: are children, are teachers, are salesmen/ cooks/ firemen. Ordinary people.

Sometimes when pinned down, to protect himself and his men, he calls in an airstrike on a building. He knows there are civilians as well as the enemy inside. They use them as human shields after all. The people who authorise the airstrike know it and the pilots in the jets know it.

To get through the night, to sleep at all, this man is going to have to adjust his ideas of what is right and what is wrong. What is acceptable and what is not. Anyone doing that in such an envirnment risks insanity, by any definitionof the word. He will be trying to find some solid ground on which to place his actions. Of course, there is no solid ground, was is insane. Everything he is doing goes against everything he was programmed to believe was good or right growing up. All the rules about the sanctity of human life and value of the individual are gone. All societal norms are squashed.

He sees friends killed and he builds up a sense of his own mortality and the immediacy of death. He also realises his life has no worth in this place just as he gives no worth to those he has to kill and see killed. Life becomes visceral, only for sensation. If he has personal demons or pathologies that he has kept control of in his former life they will be released.

From the BBC:”In November, Specialist James Barker, 24, admitted rape and murder over the killings and was jailed for 90 years.” Was this US soldier not also a victim here? In the same story: “Sgt Paul Cortez admitted four murders, rape and conspiracy to rape. His plea means he will avoid the death penalty.”

These men are not heroes but they are not “evil” either. Until you have had to kill, and kill en masse, you cannot know and cannot judge what a person goes through. Even if you had you cannot be sure your experience was the same. It goes to background, genetics and upbringing. Some people hold in great pain to become good citizens and behave well in society.

None of this detracts from the vicious and brutal nature of these killings and rapes. But some of the burden of the behaviour must lie beyond the men on the ground. If you jail these men you must surely jail the Generals who order the attacks, the pilots in air strikes, the President who orders a war. If they escape then these men must too, and be given treatment in a mental hospital not cast into jail.

ref: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6384781.stm

Separate subject: [link] an interesting article on reasons for America wanting war with Iran. There are primary sources listed. Anyone know how true this is?

I came accross a map representing, rather accurately I thought, Reagan’s world view and political map in the 80’s, I thought it would be interesting to analyze the changes. After all, things are so much different in the year 2007, right?

(You might not be able to see the map on this scale and may have click to zoom)

800px-bush-digitised-poster.jpg

Oh joy for the progress of man

Humans are so much more advanced than other animals

I love to watch my fathers dogs, it let’s me see how far the human race has come and how much we work off intellect not instinct.

They have a game. A pack game involving the various dog-bones and toys lying around the house. It is all to do with domination in the pack and your standing. Within the game there is Hoarding and Flaunting. The game is to, when the other dog is distracted or by cunningly distracting the other dog you get their toys and add them to your pile.

A favourite is suddenly getting up barking for no reason and running outside, causing the other dog to follow. Then sneaking back inside first to nick the toys and place them in front of where you are lying. That is called “The Flaunt” and frustrates the other dog(s).

Even if the dog who ends up without the toys is higher in standing in the pack (dominant) he or she cannot just go and take the toys by force. That is against pack rules (regardless, by the way, of human interferance). They have to now get the toys back within the rules, without violence.

In larger packs you do occasionally get dogs who will rule purely by force. They are highly stressed, though, and seldom live long lives, often dying from wounds gained in fights (won or lost).

Ultimately, though, it is about posession and status but operating within a framework of rules that benefits the pack as a whole and does not rip it apart.

I’m glad humans are so advanced and nothing like my father’s dogs. That would just be stupid.

jester

String Theory, Gravity Theory or M Theory depending on which flavour or nuance you subscribe to describes the interconnectedness of all things. Even the most basic of physics students knows the experiment whereby you hit an atom and two electrons with different spin come out. Then if you change the spin on one the spin on it’s sister changes immediately whether they are on opposite sides of the room or planet. Such is the most basic idea of “holistic physics”.

Which means all humans, all creatures are connected on some level, even Britney spears and the Dalai Lama. I mention this only because many are mystified by Britney’s most recent foray into fashion. Some, even me, have been buried by scepticism and paved over by cynicism and said that any celebrity who shaves their head in the window of an expensive hair salon in hollywood is only out for attention- not having a nervous breakdown or becoming lesbian. Not that you could blame the girl for considering it- marrying Kevin Federline has to be all the motivation you need. Not even the most right-wing Catholic, vengeful God would send her to hell for it after that trauma.

In her sharp turn away from latex catsuits and tweeny schoolgirl outfits Britney has tried to don the lesbian/ new-age feminist/ neo-nazi look so fashionable in boot camps, right-wing terrorist cells and Bhuddist Temples. It is this final one where I think our dear Britney has found her home. She has decided that the next Dalai Lama should be a girl and she is the incarnation. After all, we have always been awed by her depth and caring counsel. Her nurturing of the youth (in their bedrooms, alone) and caring for the retarded (Kevin Federline).

So all hail string theory and Britney- the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama. Get that incense and start chanting!

jester

shaved_head.jpgActually, this post has bugger-all to do with lesbianism, feminism, nihilism or altruism. What it is about is female stars hacking off their hair and the “Golden Children” of pop and what happens to them.

Britney shaved her head to go a little punk and somehow this made it onto our local TV news program in South Africa. Thirty minutes to bring us the world and they bring us a bald prima donna more usually clad in skimpy outfits replete in tracksuit with half- a- head- shave.

Leaving for a moment the publicity value of the “Mad Cow” action and completely passing over the fact that you don’t need to go to a very public hair salon to do it right in front of the window if you are really going through some sort of personal nightmare, a $15 shaver will do the job at home, we get to the important stuff.

BSE Britney actually is going to look pretty good. Like Sinead O’Connor before her- who actually shaved her head for a reason other than self aggrandisation- it may well suit her face and should take people’s mind off the public crime that was promoting Kevin Federline, a man that made Vanilla Ice’s come-back look a good bet.

Hopefully it is followed by her actually showing a talent besides looking good in a red latex catsuit and hitting a note. Not that I have anything against those qualities- it just should not be enough to spawn a long career. One album is enough and we’re, I believe, well past that point.

So with this publicity stunt underway and television psychologists getting their first real money since Big Brother, the OJ Trial and the Michael Jackson inquest we can at least take solace that the children of a few more hollywood psychologists won’t be going hungry this winter.

Annie Lennox looked good to. Does Britney have the talent of a Sinead or an Annie waiting beyond that boob-job? On evidence so far I think not.

jester

*- this piece was a necessary knee jerk reaction to the previous, overly serious, overly long piece.

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This is a piece about cultures, about nations, about values and happiness. It is about pride, jingoism and justice, whatever that may be. It is also about South Africa, my miracle country, about 50% too long and it might be preachy as all hell- or it might be insightful. I imagine I will only be able to tell myself when I re-read it some months from now. In other words: you have been warned.[on re-read it is too long and needs to lose the last 2 paragraphs to be a decent piece]

For many years I was, in many ways, a typical white South African woeful of the backward nature of my nation stuck out on the tip of Africa. Seeing massive potential but also seeing it squandered by ignorance, squandered by self interest, suqandered by bickering and distrust.

politics_bush_cheney.jpgThe more I see of our turning world outside this country’s borders the more I laud my home and it’s achievements. I look at the USA and messrs. Cheney and Bush and wonder at the lack of criminal investigation into their dealings. The idea of a government contract foregoing the tender process and being simply handed to a company the “Hander Outer” (right hand man of “The Decider”) used to be a Chief Executive of and still holds shares in is ludicrous and alien to me in darkest Africa.

I do not say that dodgy politicians in South Africa may not try to undermine the tender process: they do. I do not say that when they are caught they do not see some favour and cronyism when it comes to how their sentence is dealt with: they do. But they are investigated, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced by one of the most independent and least corrupt judiciaries in the world. We, after all, are a country with a special division of police simply for investigating corruption, specifically government corruption. The only one I know of.

In the USA I do not even hear talk of an investigation by the FBI into Cheney and Bush. In the UK Tony Blair is interviewed but “not a suspect” in the cash-for-honours scandal. How can the leader of the party that gave away knighthoods for cash not be a suspect? Are they insane? Does he not have a clue how his party is funded? When they get given hundreds of thousands of pounds does he assume “what lovely chaps” and move on? Does he not ask why their names are also on the honours list put forward to the Queen? Not a suspect? What toadying, sycophantic rubbish.

politics_yengeni_boesak.jpgWe, as a country, in recent years, have fired our vice president, put out to pasture dangerously unstable politicians like Winnie Mandela and slammed into jail (if briefly) a number of our politicians (Yengeni, Boesak) for dodgy dealings. When was the last time a UK politician went to jail? Archer had to be hounded by a national newspaper into a jail cell.

In the USA, who was the last senator in office put behind bars? Last congressman? The only person brought up on any sort of charges in recent years was their former president- and this over trying to get some under the table nookie from a fat, unattractive intern who doesn’t clean her clothes often enough. Don’t tell me it was about “whether he lied under oath,” that is rubbish. It was no-one’s business in the first place whether the man was getting laid occasionally and when the question was asked any decent judge would have told a prosecutor to stuff it.

Yet, the same skepticism of South Africans of all colours toward their government and lack of belief in how great we are is part of what will keep us honest. The UK has the same skepticism toward their leaders but their attention has wavered from their government’s activities as the population is distracted by the most capitalist of enterprises: building wealth.

A country which lauds their leadership and believes their own propoganda of how great they are is doomed to be steamrollered by the powerful with just a small squeak as liberty disappears. The USA has been, to outsiders, a police state at least since the 80’s and now starts to look fascist in it’s approach and attitudes. If anyone reads Orwell’s 1984 and then reads the speeches of Bush and Cheney can be in no doubt to the direction in which they are heading, with the UK not too far behind.

big_brother.jpg“FREEDOM IS SLAVERY”: every American must give up some civil liberties to protect freedom.

“WAR IS PEACE”: the war on terror must be fought with troops for the world to achieve peace.

“IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”: the media must not report what the government don’t want them to as it ’emboldens’ the enemy.

I could go on but considering the comparisons to 1984 are currently being made by every first-year university student in the world this piece is already dangerously fatuous in it’s outpourings.

My confusion comes wherein I believe national pride (not to be confused with jingoism) is a positive force, not a negative one. Jingoism is where you laud the greatness of your country regardless of it’s actual behaviour. National pride is when you laud it for achievements you, personally, believe worthwhile. The safest, most easily gauged and most beneficial source of national pride must be sport as it is also the most easily engaging and widely watched of human achievements. Much more so than science, academia or art- which is why so much money is available to it.

So, if it is this influential it is something we should pay attention to, a great deal of attention. It influences countries behaviours and attitudes. Things like fair play, honour or a win- at- all- cost attitude will filter to the populace. Our South African rugby team winning the world cup after isolation from international rugby for close to 20 years- and the sight of aour first black president, our universally loved Madiba, standing next to the winning Captain wearing a rugby shirt (Rugby being traditionally a whites sport- soccer a black sport in Apartheid South Africa) did a great deal for unifying the country. But since those days of amateur sport over professional sport I have seen my favourites start do display that win- at- all- costs- mentality, seen them cheat with impugnity, and ne’er an eye is batted. Where is the outrage at cheating? Where is the desire for a fair society?

The last time I saw a player do something I was proud of was in cricket and the player was in later years to become a self-confessed cheat- taking bookmaker’s money to adjust player scores (but not to throw games). His moment came in a game against Australia, our traditional chief rivals, in a World Cup game (I seem to remember). Australia were 9 wickets down (the game in it’s dying embers, 2 balls left with 4 runs to get and the game decided if a man goes out- a real Hollywood ending if Hollywood knew anything about cricket) when Shane Warne (Aus), in an effort to avoid being out when taking a quick run, illegally hit the ball a second time- away from the fielder.

South Africa appealed (umpires cannot intervene in cricket unless appealed to- cricket was once a game of gentleman who admitted when they were out and simply walked off the field of play) and the umpires were about to send him from the field with South Africa winning the game by default and Shane Warne in shame. Hansie Cronje approached the umpires and withdrew the appeal. There was now one ball left, four runs needed from it (ball hit to the boundary) and South Africa won by bowling Shane Warne, the cheat, out. Like I said, Hollywood stuff. We showed great sportsmanship and win or lose I was proud of the way our team had conducted themselves, I was proud to be a South African that day.

The last time I saw a sports association do something I could be proud of was that previously mentioned scandal over betting and cheating. Every national team in the world, bar none, was involved. Bar none- I kid you not. South Africa was the only country to ban players: Hansie Cronje, a national hero, was not even allowed to coach at school level, commentate on crcket games or have any official involvement with any cricket team ever again. All the other world associations protected the cheats, hid evidence and generally thwarted the investigators. The only South African involved to escape punishment was Herschelle Gibbs who admitted he happily took the money from the bookmakers and then completely failed to do what they asked. I was proud that we exposed the cheats and banned them, no matter how much I wished Hansie, a much loved captain for what he did for us, had not been involved.

These are things where national pride affects a country. Affects the way it does business and the social behaviour of it’s citizens. I have seen the behaviour of these teams and those in football, the sport I have always enjoyed the most, deteriorate. I think, without doubt, that it affects the psyche of the countries involved. The youth, above all others, are convinced that cheating is endemic in every sphere of society and the odds on their success in life are stacked against them. The sad thing is that they are not wrong.

In America, for instance, the middle class is dwindling as real wages have decreased and time at work increased since the 1960s. Everything we are brought up to believe valuable- property, posessions, family have become less affordable yet company profits- the ones who have allowed wages to decrease, continue to rise. Where is the outrage?

Countries with democracies are having them corrupted by rich people with unregulated donations the politicians could not achieve power without. Where is our outrage?

We are having less time to ourselves, to see our friends, to build families, to expand our minds and enjoy our lives. Where is your outrage?

We are told how many husbands or wives we can have as if it is some universal truth, whether we can sample some drugs and not others, whether we can get treatment for illness based on our income. Should I not be outraged?

We allow the phrase “it is just business,” the coldest most hateful phrase in the human lexicon, into general usage to justify all means of behaviour destructive to our societies, our neighbours, our friends and ourselves.

Outrage is not enough. Do something. Write a letter to a senator, a congressman, any politician, a company that uses child labour, a television station, a sports association. join a union to fight for a better wage- it’s not just for blue collar workers. Whatever part of your life is most affected.

[should have ended here]

The internet gives us all a powerful medium to effect change. Five days ago I started my contribution. I have decided not to be outraged but proactive. I have decided to do my bit for a change. I put up a website called sportscheat.org where players are shamed for cheating, where visitors are encouraged to sign a petition, write letters to television, sponsors of cheats and sports sportscheat_nas_01.pngassociations. In the first 4 hours it had 350 visitors and 70 signatories. I have committed myself to an hour or two a day to try and make a difference in the world.

What will your contribution be?

sportscheat.org

jester

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PAXMAN- an education

February 17, 2007

jeremy_paxman_newsnight.jpgI am not much of one to linking to the external, my ‘blogroll’ is usually about as far as I go. I am also neither a YouTube whore nor a client of the YouTube whoring system but this is, quite simply, something people should see.

It is a long time since I have had the joy of watching an interviewer who is not only dogged but smarter than the people he is interviewing. Paxman does not let anyone get away with political doublespeak, he doesn’t allow himself to be confused so that he has to move on to the next question.

Paxman listens carefully and then, if the question is unanswered or avoided, he asks it again and again. He makes sure you know just how duplicitous people are not by accusation but by repeatedly hunting down the actual answer to his questions- whether he eventually gets them or not.

Watch him ask the same question, patiently, 11 times. Okay, maybe not so patiently. Interviewers out there: this is how you do it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCo7qbzEX3c&eurl=

Looking at porn…

February 17, 2007

A friend of mine, one who has known me for years and is greatly aware (and very forgiving) of my failings in social basics like remembering the name of the person I am talking/ writing to (sorry again, Max) once paid me a huge compliment. She said to me that she found me amusing for two reasons. First was the way I could take the disgusting/ immoral/ rude and the intellectual/ scientific/ philosophical and blend them into the same sentence without any apparent effort and the second, connected, reason was that I brought the analytical thoughts to porn and pornographic thoughts to analysis*.

porngraph.jpgThe reason I bring this up is the graphic you (internet willing) see here. On the surface it looks amusing so you read it for a few seconds. At this point is where most normal people (the ones with families, friends, pets, intelligence, lives, jobs and so on) would move on with the appropriate items from the aforementioned list.

That I don’t just move on is, in fact, probably at least part of the reason I find myself unfettered by most of the things on that list and instead find myself musing over the accuracies or inaccuracies in the graph at hand.

Is, for instance, the curve projection on horse penises seen really viable? As a fan of sex and a sometimes far-too-liberated human being I do have to call that into question. In fact, I did the next thing no-one in their right mind would do: I decided to research it.

It turns out, whether on the broader internet or whether surfing the porn highways horse penis is actually very, very hard to come by without forking over cash. Which I assume is something that no-one actually does for internet porn considering how much is available free. The most reliable place to catch a glimpse is on veterinarian websites, chinese take-away menus and horse jumping competitions. So I would have to say this graph has some flaws and, with my newfound research information at hand, I can tell you that horse penises should be long, straight and at a slightly erect or ascending angle to be most properly represented. On the graph**.

There were a few other notable errors or inconsistencies, but only 2 worth mentioning. The respect of friends graph is patently absurd and the dip an unscientific assumption up there with creationism and string theory***. Assuming this person started with friends in the first place- the friends that would stick around once the porn obsession levels got so high that answering the front door with trousers around the ankles and a raging stiffy- even for the pizza man, becomes ‘de rigeur’, obviously have no standards and so their respect would not decrease a jot. The levels of available friends would follow the curve of the graph, however, with a small but sharp turn upwards when the soul in question finally joins a support group for both the porn addicted and traumatised pizza men.

Finally there is the girlfriends curve which might well be applicable in Utah, Quebec or Austria. I cannot say for sure. But it is most likely the intellectual product of either a Tibetan Monk, a nun, an 8-year old or a hermit living on a desert island, cut off from the world for the past 20 years (which would beg the question- where did he learn to use photoshop?) and probably wearing some sort of grass skirt with bugs in it. Oh, or a girl who has never had a boyfriend or an orgasm. You see, a certain amount of porn and the realted activities is necessary for a male to not, entirely, lose his mind. No porn and no girlfriend combined together decreases your chance of meeting a girl and saying more than 12 words to her before getting into a hopeless, complicated tangle and making a mess of yourself.

In actuality, societies where porn is still illegal and only available on the black market are notorious for odd arrests of males trying to stick their penises into anything at all. Streets abound with men with their dicks stuck in post boxes, telephone coin return slots, rotating doors, squid, car windows and, on sundays, choir boys.

I do grant that the amount of porn any man will admit to watching, no matter how much he does, is (as represented) static- except when his mother is in the room which we can discount merely as a statistical anomaly and an attempt to save on the whole Freudian analysis thing.

jester

*- the coversational use of the word, not the American use. Unless your analyist is hot.

**- those three words are like doing a drumroll at the end of a joke: if you need them either it wasn’t funny or your audience is dumb. Either way they don’t help and should be left out at all costs.

***- I like the theory, but it’s still absurd.

Modern Philosophy

February 14, 2007

My other site dictum.wordpress.com, has just published it’s first philosophical paper. For anyone who reads my drivel but does not know about it a basic synopsis here, copied from the front page:

Ever felt like all your taught behaviours didn’t feel right? Ever been surprised at your thoughts and how they differ from what you have been told you were meant to be thinking? Fantastic, welcome to the club. You are a human being of the 21st Century brought up on philosophies created by mad old men, many sporting beards and all with no real friends who have been deliberately putting the wind up society over the past 4000 years (or thereabouts).

The philosophy is based on a public vote on whether people relate to quotes or dictum (authoratative pronouncements) from famous people we might actually like if we met them. Mae West. Hemmingway. Ghandi. Oscar wilde. Charile Sheen. etc…

The first paper is appropriate to February 14th, dealing with sex and relationships.

jester