Country of My Sulk: another criticism of South Africa to add to its already extensive repertoire

racismIn the past, when South Africa was mentioned, associations of Apartheid and Racism would crop up. Nowadays, associations of Freedom, Democracy and Peace develop. I am truly saddened to be the bearer of bad news at this prospect, but South Africa can indeed not yet claim these merits.

Our philosophy lecturer introduced today’s class with a serious tone in saying that we would be dealing with sensitive topics. The main question “when can someone be considered African?” sparked up a fiery debate. Initially, every disagreement had been dealt with in a neutral fashion. One student then made (what I would consider) an indoctrinated notion claiming that only black people are African. Furthermore, he also claimed that Ubuntu (the African philosophy that a person is only a person through other people) should only be shown to one’s own community. Thus, by earlier stating that all non-Blacks should be excluded from the African community, the problem developed that therefore inter-racial communications involving Ubuntu towards each other should be proved to be impossible. Needless to say, emotions were stirred and fiery patriotic claims followed.

As this student’s upsetting conclusion dawned on everyone, it was clear that a racist discourse of exclusion still surrounds South Africa like vehement, opaque gas. This black student’s views were then very cleverly challenged by another black student proving that there might be hope of escaping this poisonous ideology. Not only among blacks does this ideology exist, quite obviously: there is a constant bickering between races.  It must be noted that there are individuals who rise above this racism, but at the moment, the emotionality of the country’s history has consumed most people.

From this example it is clear that every good theory can have bad interpretations which drag it down into the mud. Ubuntu’s philosophy is as follows: I am because you are. If we could understand the “I” and the “you” as always belonging to the same worldwide context, Ubuntu could very well lead not only to a more understanding nation, but to a more understanding world. If we understand our context not only in terms of ourselves, our families, or our communities – if we open our contexts into seeing ourselves as part of the world, a truly peaceful and helping world community could exist.

It is clear that South Africa still has a long walk to the other kind of freedom. Yes, individuals are now free by law, but if we can be free in social situations – if we can communicate with one another without feeling inferior or superior, we could be emotionally and socially emancipated as well. What scares me about South Africa is that it is still not attempted to instil this freedom.

A last image I leave you with:

yin yang

“How Many BA Students Does it Take to Pour a Drink?”

As a BA student, I get this kind of mocking question all the time. This particular one has been bothering me for months. As per usual, it is impossible to come up with a witty/intellectual response when something like that gets thrown at you like a hot potato. Today, however, I found a perfect response that could be pitched to this type of ignorant question while simultaneously asserting the importance of the social sciences/humanities as a field of study.

Q: “How many BA Students does it take to pour a drink?” (This question was posed by an Engineering Student if anyone was wondering)

A: Well, even though it might take a considerable amount of us to do this simple task, it is not a reflection of our stupidity – on the contrary, we have passionately internalised many of the ideals of well-loved philosophers who are unfortunately not well-known to the general sphere of the population.

From their rational classics, we understand the importance of pooling together the social forces in a community in order not only to get things done more efficiently, but also to benefit our humanity by doing so. If we are all pouring drinks together, do we not then simplify the task considerably for each individual? Are we not then less likely to spill? Do we not then gain more of a sense of camaraderie and happiness out of such a seemingly mundane, everyday activity?

Those of you who trust solely in Science, Accounting and Technology, fail at harnessing the vast and meaningful possibilities contained within humanity and the human psyche. Yes, you might build a machine to pour numerous drinks; yes, building one shows that you are very clever; yes, it is very impressive. But do you gain a sense of your own humanity out of it? Do you feel better having all these already-poured drinks ready with no one to help you drink them?

Point is, even if you do have all these drinks to yourself, you’ll merely end up putting yourself into a severely depressed, comatose stupor. And this is precisely what we in the humanities department are trying to avoid you from doing.

Let us help you prevent this :’)

Where the Natural Sciences assume happiness can only be achieved by making our lives more effective (and hence, more technological), the Social Sciences challenge this assumption and come up with a great many creative responses. Most of the general public would, unfortunately, just dismiss these (actually) very rational theories as “hocus pocus” – doesn’t this remind you a bit of those “silly” people who dismissed Galileo Galilei’s theory without giving it a second thought?

Don’t misunderstand me – the Natural Sciences as well as Technological Advancements definitely serve their own benefits in our society (just imagine if you could have a great big machine pouring drinks while all of us could talk about the essence of life and stuff!). And then as soon as we realise that the machine is becoming too much of a focus and that social interaction is wavering and that consequently ideas on happiness and life are stagnating, the Social Sciences can step in again in order to retain our sense of meaningfulness!

A last idea that I will leave you with:

“Q: What went wrong in our society that undermined freedom and fulfilment and instead served enslavement and unfulfilment?

A: A Technological-Rational approach has been extended from the (rightful) domination of nature to the (wrongful) domination of people and society. It is not Science and Technology per se that are enslaving, but how we choose to use Science and Technology”

–          Idea attributed to Jürgen Habermas

Is Foreseeing the Future a Possibility?

Aside

I’ve been foreseeing the topic of ‘psychics’ being one of my posts for a long time now…

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They are often labelled as “heathens”; “witches”, or more secularly, “crazies”. It seems to me, however, that these “crazies” (the ones that simply go against the grain of conventional thought) often  contribute something extremely useful to the world.

For example, if you think about how Galileo Galilei, priests wanted to decapitate him for believing (and observing!) that the earth was not the centre of the universe and by far not the only planet with imperfections. People hated him. This often happens with people that have revolutionary ideas that don’t, at the time, make sense.

People used to think that the planets revolved around the earth in a slinky-style fashion.

Before Galileo (who initially consulted Copernicus’ texts), people used to think that the planets revolved around the earth in a slinky-style fashion.

What if psychics actually had integral knowledge into the happenings of the future? What if it’s simply a skill that is more developed in certain people than in others?

I know that many of my friends do not really think about the future. Then only a day before the test they would start worrying. These friends of mine are not stupid – they can put forth solutions to some of the most complex social problems. Yet, they do not have they (learnt) skill of thinking about consequences.

What I’m implying is that perhaps psychics just have a knack for foreseeing certain most likely consequences. If it is possible to 90% accurately predict the future (such as that if you are not going to study, you are going to fail), why is it not possible that some people may be able to think about the likeliest consequences just a bit further in the future?

Basically, metacontextually, my point is that one should not judge people with alternative regimes as “crazies”. Yes, they might be wrong, but there’s a great chance that you’re also wrong [another philosophical question comes to mind: is there a right?]. And, what if, 1000 years from now, people look at your criticism of the “crazies” and label you as a nitwit?

I’m not saying you should accept everything willingly, but if there is even a slight support from rationality to a certain belief, how can you (at this limited point of time) determine whether it works or not?

*if anyone reading this blog is a psychic/ knows a psychic, please assist me in the understanding of your practice. I’m always eager to learn about alternative forms of knowledge. Remember, once Science was also seen as an evil witch craft – people were burned at the stakes for believing in it!

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*if you want to watch a very interesting movie related to this topic, watch Mr Nobody 🙂

To Escape

“Why don’t you come away with me, my Love? We’ll do what it takes, I’ll keep you safe. Why don’t you stay by me? When the time comes, we’ll escape…” –The Kongos: Escape

LOST VALENTINE

There’s something about war-time romances. In a certain quite macabre way it’s everyone’s ideal dream even though they wouldn’t want to live through it.

In a song by the Kongos, “Escape”, the perfect love story is told. Bombs are bursting in the air; rockets illuminate the sky; the fabric of social existence is wrought out… And yet, these two lovers experience the most dramatic, most meaningful time of their lives. The singer says “We’ll do what it takes; I’ll keep you safe”.

warThe truth is, they probably won’t stay safe. And they probably couldn’t do what it takes. Because the odds are against them.

It becomes clearer then, that our romantic “idealism” is especially twisted. Instead of the ideal being perfect, we draft images and scenes of a dramatic yearning that cannot be fulfilled in our lifetime. In a sense, then, our idealism regarding war-time romance borders more on reality than utopia.

Need this false ‘idealism’ be a bad thing? No.

If it is reality and drama we want in a relationship, then don’t we get exactly what we hoped for? To experience the whole spectrum of emotions: from anger, to sadness, to regret, to happiness. To be a more fulfilled person.

Truth is, we want to battle. If you have too much love; if you are too happy, you are (strangely enough) not happy; not fulfilled. Just as in a war time romance, you want to feel that the person you’re with will want to see it through to the end with you even if that means a lot of (internal) destruction may lie in your paths. And in that strange dichotomy lies the true nature of our idealism – circumstances shouldn’t be perfect; the person shouldn’t be perfect; the ‘perfection’ lies in trying to make it through anything.

In a sense, we want to ‘escape’ into reality; live though it; fight through it. Why fight fighting?

Just Love

ImageOn Valentine’s Day you see lovers everywhere trying to suss out whether or not they’re meant to be together. You see heartbroken ones that feel lost and alone. You see singles yearning for that special introductory glance. Around every corner, Valentine’s Day has people being preoccupied by that all-illusive concept: Love.

Interestingly enough, this constant yearning for love and belonging is addressed in many religious and philosophical texts. Initially in these texts, lovers are portrayed as ideal; eternal; utopian. For instance, in the Bible’s Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lounge around without a care in the world. In Plato’s Symposium, all lovers are physically bound to one another in a strange sort of Siamese twin love affair. Even in everyday pop culture (which I guess you could say has become our general religion), there’s the notion that somewhere out there your ‘soul mate’ exists and as soon as you find him/her you will be complete.

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The interesting thing, however, is that as soon as the humans do something wrong by the Books of the Gods, it is love that gets taken away. As soon as Adam and Eve eat the Fruit of Sin, their life together is immediately like that of an unhappily married couple. As soon as Zeus believes the Siamese twin-like humans to have done something wrong, he splits them in half leaving only wandering, lonely ‘incompletes’. In more contemporary pop culture it is believed that you’re chance at finding love is doomed as soon as you drink that glunck or smoke that toke.

These stories make something apparent to me: firstly, we see love as some sort of perfect, heavenly utopia. Secondly, because the gods chose to take love away (and assuming that these stories are mythical and thus written by people), it must mean that we value love as a need above food, shelter or clothing. Thirdly, we blame our inevitable human faults (and their punishment from the gods) as a reason for us not to be able to love.

To me, the most rational conclusion out of this is that, in reality, we should simply accept that love will not be perfect because we live in an imperfect world. I don’t think we even have any conception of what perfection is. Besides, would it not make for a more heartfelt, true story if you love someone even though they are imperfect? Would it not make for a great, beautiful, dramatic story if one’s other half is eventually found even if it’s only at a ripe old age?

In my opinion, people regularly try to put our imperfect world aside for the “perfect world” imagined by so many religions. Yet, our imperfect world carries more beauty because of the fact that it is unpredictable, mysterious and exciting. Consequently sometimes you need to hurt…a lot… to, at a later stage, appreciate the beauty in what you have had or still have.

Down those post-Valentine’s day blues and just go with the flow. Stop yearning. Stop trying to figure out. Just love.

Why You Like Rudy McRudesons

angry_woman_2Yesterday I started working at an advertising agency in Cape Town. Now, the stereotype is that Cape Town is full of Hipsters; furthermore, people involved in creative work (such as advertising) tend to be know-it-alls. Usually the combination of a know-it-all and a Hipster gives you an abominably rude/cold/egotistical person.

So, when I started work on the first day, I was surprised to find that my expectations had been slightly melodramatic – not everyone working there had this combination. For instance, the intern working with me was very soft-spoken and timid. [Yet it seemed as if she had a mean, gossipy streak that she was hiding]. Another guy also seemed really nice – I mean, c’mon, he even had a pink shirt on, how could he not be sensitive and all those other good things girls look for? [However, later when I couldn’t get through to one of his very important international calls, he tried to keep his demeanour calm and tranquil, but judging from the red anger rising up in his neck, I could tell he wanted to give call me an imbecile to say the least].*celebrity-pictures-jamie-farr-men-pink

Now, at this point you’re probably a bit confused. On the one hand it seems as if I’m saying that I wished that people at my work would be civil and control their urges to shout at me, but on the other hand I’m complaining about the people that actually fulfilled these wishes of mine. Today when I saw this controversy in the workings of my mind I finally realised that I am actually really fond of rude people.

There is one lady at our office who is especially intimidating. Her hair is short and angular. She walks purposefully on her tongue-click heels. Her gaze is the worst: it makes you think of excuses even if you haven’t done anything wrong – she literally stares daggers at you. Then there’s my boss – cold precision jumps to mind. These two people, however, are held in my highest regards! I think I’ve figured out why I (and so many others**) clutter around rude people like flies around a carcass: If you think about it in poperant conditioning terms (think the opposite to Pavlov and his dogs), then it makes sense that because it’s so difficult to get rude people to crack a smile, once you do get them to crack a smile, your personal feeling of achiement is so much higher than when someone timid (and slightly fake) smiles with empty eyes at almost every sentence you utter.

There are however also genuinely kind people. Take, for instance, the receptionist – she is the sweetest lady and although I cannot say with total guarantee, I believe she would not hurt a fly or (equivocal to a fly at this point in my internship) me. When she smiles (which is often) you can see she really means it.

I guess my conclusion would be that that old cliché – “be yourself” – holds a lot of water. The only thing they don’t tell you in Sunday school (or wherever you heard it the first time) is that even if “yourself” is a rude, cold person, being genuine will still get you way more appreciation in this world than being a yuppie suck-up.

Weeeee!

Weeeee!

vvideo-bikersjpg-eb0c19c0cf6ebad1* Please take note that I am not discriminating against guys who wear pink shirts. I am however poking fun at doucebags who wear pink shirts to appear sensitive.

**Those to whom I’ve answered the question “Why do I fall in love with assholes? :(”,  your thanks is much appreciated [bow] 😛

Daily Post: Stroke of Midnight

Ever since I was a little kid, I could never stay awake until the stroke of midnight. I guess you could say the same sort of thing happened last night. Only, when I was younger, I would always be disappointed the next day if I had not stayed up like all the adults.

This year, my Love and I went camping for New Year’s. There was a big party going on and (don’t get me wrong) we were part of the festivities — we even snuck into a bar where we actually had to pay. But before the stroke of midnight, we just weren’t present for the countdown. I am not disappointed, however, because I was exactly where I wanted to be. Curled up in his arms, talking and making jokes. Plus, today in the car while we were driving back, we had our own little mock-countdown 🙂