protesting


We expect riots to happen in places like Egypt, Libya and Bahrain. Places where people are oppressed in one way or another. Places we see each day on our television and in our newspapers. We follow the stories of those unhappy people on Twitter and social media. It’s them. It’s not us. Good for them to stand up and fight for a better life.

And then London…

What do they riot for? What do they fight for? A television set and a laptop? A few beers and a packet of crisps? Is that what liberation of the West means? Material stuff for a material society?

But it’s not what they do and what they steal and what they burn that makes me worry. The riots are despicable. It’s wrong. It’s meaningless. It’s violence. It’s opportunistic. But it is no more despicable than the rioters burning the houses and businesses of the innocent in those far-off “exotic” places. They are in essence the same people doing these horrid acts for the same reasons.

The lost voices fed by idiot boxes.

They are fed by media who are meaningless. Television of nothing. They are told to stare at the television and absorb all this great information. Information of what? Controlled news. The voices they hear are those of posh people who have what they want. A life. But stare into the idiot box and eventually you find nothing in there. Just empty promises and posh voices. No life. No future. Just an idiot box to make more idiots.

The powerless being fed fake reality.

They are being fed lies about a better life. Watch some reality show and maybe your dream can come true. Maybe you can be somebody too. Maybe that is your way out if the lotto doesn’t do it for you. A quick fix. But the reality of these people is no better future. They are told to follow the stories of those who came from their backgrounds and who made it into this world of those who have. But eventually they see that those are the exceptions to the rule. The majority stay behind with no life. And maybe even a life cut shorter. They don’t make the news. They are just those who live on the other side of the railroad track. The people without a life. Another life lost won’t mean much. It doesn’t make for good reality television.

The hungry being fed brands and consumerism.

They are told to own the latest music system. The latest tablet. The latest sneakers. The latest hip product. Buy it and you will become one of us. And they buy. And buy. They cut corners and steal money to make that dream come alive. And then they get the product and nothing happens. They still live in those same streets. They still live those same lives. Just with cooler products. And then the money runs out and something new comes along. And they are back to where they belong. With no life and just the need for the latest gadget or hip product.

The meaningless being fed politics of change.

They are told that there are people who really care. Who cares about them and their future. That they will make a difference. They will be the difference. But the difference is really aimed at them. It’s aimed at the middle class to keep them happy. The real majority isn’t in the number of people but in the numbers in money. They are told that companies care about them. They can see it in the charity handed out daily. But none of this makes them become one of them. They don’t hire them. They don’t vote for them. They just promise the world and then turn their backs. The only change is that they are told that they are the problem. That they are lazy. That they are uneducated. That they fail to deliver on the promise of this great society. A society they were never invited to. A party for the invited only.

The social being fed social media.

They chat and they talk and they tweet. They like and they poke and they link. They are the heart of social media. They become part of the social movement. They connect with people from all over. They are the social movement in social media. But then they open their eyes and see that it’s still the same. The people following them are still those who sell them promises and the latest hip products. The social media turns into media. The social media become a me-me-me want more-more-more media. The social part of media breaks down like the social fabric of their lives.

How can we be surprised at the riots? It’s happening around us daily. In little ways. The kid get abused. The kid getting hooked on drugs. The homeless guy down the road. The unclaimed victim of a shooting. The drugs on our streets. These are all little riots happening daily.

The sad truth is that when people feel powerless they do stupid things because they see no alternative. They direct their anger at the wrong people. Not because they want to but because they know no better. No one has told them how to raise their voices. The only people telling them what to do are those same people who use them and abuse them daily. But they are not the answer.

I don’t know the answer.

All I know is that middle class people don’t riot. They have too much to lose. No revolution or riot happens from those who have something. We live in a world where the gap between those who have and those who don’t is increasing every single day. Those who have lost little during the recession. Or at least they see some hope and a way out. Those who were on the outside to start off with knows that getting in just got even harder.

The world is burning. They don’t care about tomorrow anymore. They care about today. The system is broken and no one knows how to fix it. It needs too much to fix it. We need people to buy less stuff. We need people to hire more people. We need people to live with each other and not just amongst each other. We need people to be a community. We need businesses driven by social profit. We need those who have to share in their responsibility as members of our society. We need them to embrace their role and not judge their worth on how much they own or their margins alone. We don’t need to fix the system – we need a new system.

I don’t think we will get there. I just don’t think we have it in us to build anything new anymore. Those who have don’t want to change because they are sucked into a world where they have too much to lose. We’ve been invaded by laziness. We’ve been sucked into a world that we created – flashy cars, latest gadgets, better holidays. These things make us dependent on them and we can’t get rid of the drug called “living the life”. They don’t know that we can lose it all in a flash. They don’t know that they are Mubarak but living in a world of fake freedom and liberty. It’s a fragile house we built around ourselves and we just don’t see it coming. Or we don’t want to see it coming.

We won’t get there. We’ll chip away and try to make it a better place by doing our little bits. And we’ll do it in the system we live in. It’s not the answer but we know no better.

That’s what I’ll do. Keep chipping away at trying to make our broken system a little bit better. Last a little bit longer. It’s not the answer but I have nothing else as an answer. It’s the best I can do with what I know and where I am.

In the meantime they riot because they know no better. They riot because they have not answer. They riot because they know no alternative. They riot because they don’t know what else to do. They will riot because that’s all the system knows.

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I’ve tried to stay out of the political debate on health care over here in the US. No one will be surprised by my position on this one. I’m not going to comment on the Obama speech or even the stupidity of Wilson. No, I won’t. I want to scratch a little bit deeper here. Deep down to a little thing known as personal responsibility…

So you are against universal health care. Or the government option – or whatever the hell you want to call it. Let me get this straight…

You are against government providing health care to those who can’t afford it or those who the private insurance companies deem as too costly to cover. Better to let them die, right?

Look, the current system isn’t working – we can all agree to that. The problem is that your proposal doesn’t address any of the fundamental challenges of the system – covering the poor and those in need. If I lose my job today then I lose my health care coverage as well. Except if I have the money to pay through my neck for it while I don’t have any income. Doesn’t sound right, right?

Let’s agree on one thing before I rant – cut some of the crap being covered by health care. Obesity? Stop eating crap. Obesity isn’t a disease. Cancer is a disease. Way too much shit is covered by health insurance. Plastic surgery? 90% are crap. Only those with facial defects and burn victims should be covered. A new boob job because you want bigger boobs doesn’t count. Whiter teeth? Go British I say. Cut the fat off coverage and only cover stuff that is really pushing people to their death.

Blame the pharmaceutical companies for lobbying for crap to be covered. They create “medicine” that will address these social “diseases” and then lobby the hell out of (mostly) Republicans for these to be covered. Why? Not because they want to address the real health issues but because they want to make a bigger profit from growing some hair over that bold spot of yours or magically make your beer and Mickey D laden fat go away.

While I’m on obesity. Yes, we carry the burden of that in the US and most developed countries. Stop eating crap and start going outside. If you get a heart disease because of your diet? Make sure you have good funeral coverage. I’m sick and tired of people being covered by health insurance for things that they do to themselves. Over and over again.

You shot yourself in the foot with your own gun? That’s stupid so pay up yourself. You want to carry a gun them suffer the consequences…

Back to the point though. So who will care for those who lost their jobs and can’t afford health care insurance? Or those who the insurance companies judge as too risky or too sick to cover? Let me give you an alternative to the government option.

You.

Yes, you. I’m talking to you Mr and Mrs I’m-Against-The-Government-Option. You should be paying for it.

Why? Because you claim to be on the side of America and the Christian right. That’s just stupid. It’s not an answer it’s just empty words of fake patriotism. America and Christianity is about solutions and not just about shooting your mouth off.

You can’t open your mouth without giving some form of solution. The health care system in the US is a failure. No one can argue against that. We all know it and we all accept it. Private industry is not the answer. I would love for them to be the answer but, in this case, they are not. They are generally the best answer when it comes to making cars (huh?) or computers or televisions or other crap we don’t need to survive. Oh they can make the medicine and medical equipment we need better than any government. But they have proven to be a complete failure when it comes to dealing with our actual health coverage. Especially when it comes to the poor and those in need.

So what alternative are you offering here? Some wishy-washy plan that will NOT result in those people being covered? I’m not interested in making your insurance any cheaper. (Or mine for that matter.) I’m interested in how we deal with those in need. Let’s assume for a minute that we won’t go for the government option. Let’s think of a plan that will help those people in need in another way.

And this is where you come in…

You can’t be American (or anything else) without taking some level of responsibility. You can’t open your mouth against something if you aren’t willing to offer up some form of solution. You do this way too often.

You are against abortion. But you are not willing to take in the unwanted kids. Or those born with disabilities. Or those born with alcohol syndrome. Or those born through rape. Or where the mother died because of the birth. I don’t see you rushing forward and claiming these babies. You shout from the side and walk away when someone holds up the results of your actions and stupidity. Here is my advice to you…

Man up or shut up…

I’m sick and tired of us having to pick up after you. I am sick and tired of having to clean your mess. You spew stupidity and we liberals have to live with the mistakes of your actions and empty words. Yes we do – why do you think those who work for charities looking after unwanted babies, HIV/Aids patients, battered women, the environment, animals etc are almost always a bunch a liberals? Because someone has to fix the crap you created. And I am sick and tired of cleaning your mess.

Shut up or pay up.

You are big enough now. Time for you to take responsibility of your own empty words and actions.

You want abortion to be banned? Then fine. You take care of the unwanted babies. The sick babies. The disabled babies. Because remember, you don’t want government to interfere either now…

You want to carry a gun in the open or hidden? The fine. You take care of those kids and innocent people getting shot by their mates by accident. You take care of what your actions resulted in. Remember, you don’t want government to intervene…

You want to stop people suing others because of defects in stuff they bought or doctors who didn’t do their jobs properly? Then fine. You take care of those people who lost their jobs and income when they got injured and hurt. Remember, you don’t want government to interfere…

You want to be able to cut down every forest to dig for oil and coal? You want to be able to dump your crap anywhere you please? Then fine. You take care of the… oh wait. We are all going down on this one. Here’s my solution. We’ll take that gun you like to carry so much and shoot you. I’ll even dig your grave myself. Hell, you are busy digging mine with your policies and actions. That way we can claim our bit of oxygen left as you wasted yours with hot air – in more than one way.

Man up or shut up.

You can’t just spew stupidity without coming up with a workable solution. You can’t be anti everything. Not when what we are trying to fix is all fucked up. You are either part of the solution (any solution) or you are part of the problem. It’s not working stupid. Fix it. And it you don’t like my plan then come up with a better one. Take responsibility for your stupidity.

It’s easier to say what is wrong with a specific part in a proposal than come up with a workable solution yourself. But it doesn’t solve the big problem standing like an elephant in the corner waiting to walk all over all of us. Someone is going to get hurt and I will be damned if it is me and my kind again.

Let me put it this way.

If we had to write into law the current state of health care. Guess what. We will all be against it – you and me. The current system doesn’t work and what is proposed by the Big O is better. Not perfect but at least better. And if you don’t like it? Then either come up with a better plan or take responsibility of your own position and stupidity.

Man up or shut up. Own up or pay up.

Until then – grow a pair of balls and stop shouting from the sidelines. 

And one more thing…

This Christian thing you claim to have going on your side…

God stood for very few basic things. Actually, it all comes down to a single concept – love for all (remember that bit? You should love others like you love yourself and as much as what you love God blah-blah-blah…) Dammit you must hate yourself a lot if that part is true. And I believe it is true.

Because if you did love your neighbor… Let me ask you this. Letting a person die because they can’t afford to pay for health care and you knowingly supported them NOT getting any help. Is that the way God will want you to love? Letting someone die from cancer because they lived in a community where some mining company dumped their crap and now they can’t even afford their health care – and you knew about both of those. Is that the way God would want you to love?

So stop giving me the Christian crap. I think we might be serving a different God here. My God is ashamed of you. I know my God actually cares about everyone and cares for everyone. Ask yourself this before you open your mouth – What would God do? Would he be proud? Would he help those who needs help? Or would he walk away? If you pick this last one – here’s something to think about… He walked away from you a long, long time ago…

Own up or pay up. Man up or shut up.

I’m not cleaning your mess anymore.

This is a protest!

This is a protest!

It’s sad really. The US trade unions protesting. I’ve been watching them all over the US lately. Protesting here and protesting there. And they make me want to cry. No! Not the reason for their protests. But the way they protest. It’s sad really.

It always starts with some guy shouting into a mike or loudspeaker. It’s not a pretty sound. You ever watched Apocolypse Now? You know that scene where the two sides are just shooting away at each other with flares going off everywhere? And this guy keeps on shouting through the speakers at the American soldiers. Telling them to give up? Well, that’s what these US trade union “announcers” sound like. The guy from Apocalypse Now used it as a form of torture. And so does the trade union guys. I think it might be banned under the Geneva Convention. They can count their lucky stars that the US doesn’t support the Geneva Convention. Mmm. Makes me think that Dick and Bush should have recorded these trade unionists and used it at Guantanamo? Thank god the trade unions never leaned towards the right. That might have been a bit ugly. The horror… (Those who did watch Apocalypse Now will get the pun…)

Now for another movie scene and the trade unions. You ever seen Midnight Express? The scene where the prisoners all walk in a circle the whole time? Like zombies? Well, there goes the US trade unions. Walking in circles the whole time while protesting. WTF? Is that in some handbook somewhere that I missed? Walk in a little circle and hypnotize the “bosses”? Or is it just part of the regulatory limitations placed on trade union activities in the US? I don’t care what the reason or reasons might be. It’s sad. Really sad. And the worst part is that it turned me into a zombie while I watched them go in a circle over and over again. And again… And again… Yawn… I need a nap. Protest to bore you to death.

And where are the people? You can’t really call ten people a protest. Hell, it isn’t even enough people to make a good old English queue. You need more people to make a statement. Any group of people who number less than a sports team is really just a bunch of buddies hanging out. Not a protest. Hell. My family will protest en mass if you want to call your sorry attempt a protest. And we will have more people than the average US trade union protest. And no screeching speakers either…

Now Souf Afrikans! We know how to protest. We have it in our blood. And in our bones. It’s who we are.

We gather in our thousands. Because it is like a street party! Have fun, bring the kids. Bring something to eat. And drink! It’s like a bring-‘n-braai (potluck).

And we dance. Oh boy, do we dance! Come on! It’s a party right? No party is complete without a bit of a dance.

Okay, it’s not a dance as you know it. It’s a toyi-toyi. And you sh*t yourself if you are on the other side! It’s got rhythm. It’s got song. It’s got chanting. It’s got snappy slogans. Viva! Amandla! Hell yeah! None of this Vietnam guy-on-the-speakers screeching. Nope. Real vibrancy. Real threat. Real protest.

And it’s got beat. Our workers have beat.

And if you face it? You know you’re beat.

You think we will be stopped by some second rate law? Haha! We have our ways and means. We know how to get around it.

Way back in the days when we took to the streets without much of a reason… Anything for a party. Anyway. We have this law in Souf Efrika that says you’re not allowed to have a sit-in. You know, not allowed to take over a building and “sit in”. We went this way and that way. We had to find a way to occupy their buildings. It was the only way to get our point across… And… hum… stop them from doing anything.

Got it! Let’s work on the principle that no one in Souf Efrika knows all 11 of our official languages. And that the boere in charge will only know Afrikaans and maybe a hint of Ingils

We created the Siyalala. WTF? Exactly. That was what we hoped they would think. Wait… Let me tell you a bit about why we were protesting. Apart from the reason to party!

The target was a major clothing retailer in South Africa – Mr Price. Blah blah blah. I won’t bore you with all the details. But it we wanted them to sign a document where they supported an anti customs fraud initiative. But they refused. Why? They didn’t say  but we thought we knew why. We caught a few containers in the Maputo port (Mozambique) that already had the Mr Price tags hanging on them. What’s the problem? The clothes were meant to have “added value” in Souf Efrika for them to get the tax break. Meaning that some of the “value” of the garments must be added in Souf Efrika. Needless to say, but no value was added if the Mr Price tags already hung on the clothes in a foreign port…

So we created the Siyalala to target them and those supporting them – the banks. A Siyalala was another piece of genius from old Ebrahim Patel. Man, I loved working with him and learning from him. He always found a way. And this time it was the Siyalala.

We gave them notice of our protest through something called a Section 77 – the Souf Efrikan notification of mass action. Wait, let me see if I still have that…

I’m back – here it is. Word for word:

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Annexure 2: Nature of Protest

The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union intend initiating socio-economic protest action against the Mr Price Group, associated operations and the banking sector in the following ways:

  1. Mass rallies outside any Mr Price Group associated stores and banks in general. These include those situated in malls and stand-alone stores.
  2. Placard demonstrations at targeted retail warehouses, retail company offices, distribution points and any other commercial centre associated with the Mr Price Group, associated operations and banking sector.
  3. Solidarity campaigns aimed at the media, shareholders, employees and any organisation or individual sponsored or in the employment of the Mr Price Group, any of the Mr Price Group associated operations and/or banking sector.
  4. Picketing outside targeted Mr Price Group, associated operations and banking properties or properties linked to any of these companies.
  5. Demonstrations at events sponsored by the Mr Price Group, associated operations and banking sector
  6. Targeted contact with customers of the Mr Price Group, associated operations and banking sector informing them of the reasons for the protest action.
  7. Call for consumer boycotts of the Mr Price Group, associated operations and banking sector through general mass gatherings and protest campaign activities.
  8. Call on financial sector to discontinue supply financial services to the Mr Price Group and it’s associated operations.
  9. Siyalala’s at the Mr Price Group, associated operations and divisions and banks and bank properties during operating hours for the purpose of retarding and/or obstructing work in order to defend the socio-economic interests of workers.

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Notice hidden in number 9? Highlighted just for you? The Siyalala. The “lie in”.

Yes! If we weren’t allowed to “sit in” then we might just as well “lie in”. And we did! Well, everyone knows you need a good rest after a protest party. And what better way to rest than “lie in” for a little bit? Did I mention that Mr Price also sold pillows and blankets? Aah… Now that is much better. A good old “lie in” after spending much of the day partying protesting outside.

I miss a good protest. Us Souf Efrikans have got the worker beat. I think the unions over here have the workers beat.

Gotta go. It’s late. And I’ve been watching US trade unions protest. Yawn. They tire me out. I’m going for a Siyalala. See ya later.

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From the Loose Ends files…

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I’ve been asked about my “anger” many times. What do you have to be “Angry” about? Why are you the “Angry African”? Why indeed…

I would rather have a good meal. Maybe help my wife prepare the food. Get the table ready. Talk about whether we should have brocolli or peas or carrots to go with the maple syrup chicken and roast potatoes she just made. That’s what I would rather do. Just have a good meal together with my family. Sitting at the table and laughing at the silliness of my daughters. Making funny noises and joking with their mother. Good times. Me, my family and a good meal. I would rather have a good meal. No need for anger here.

But how can I? How can I just have a meal when I know that somewhere out there in Zambia is a family arguing about how they divide the last of the nsima. Maybe this will be the last meal they share together. Because tomorrow brings no food and no hope. Maybe tomorrow the kids will have to go down to the charity handing out food and slip some away for ma and pa back home. But will grandma make it? Can she wait another 24 hours before she gets a little something to eat. No laughing or poking of fun. Not when the bones on their bodies are poking hard at their skin. How can there be no anger?

I would rather watch telly. Just vegetate and do nothing. Stare blankly at the screen. Flip channels because I can’t decide between CSI Miami or Kitchen Nightmares. Or maybe I should watch that Bond movie I taped? Or watch Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King again? Yeah. That’s what I want to do. Just stare at the telly and think of nothing. No anger here.

But how can I? How can I stare at the telly when tonight someone might be staring at the barrel of a gun somewhere in the Congo? No channels for them to watch. Maybe tonight will be the last time they see anything. I can change the channel but they can’t change their lives. I can play with the remote but they are here. Waiting for me to think of them. Always hiding somewhere in my conscious. Waiting to flip the channel of my brain to their station. No static. Just their lives waiting to be changed while they live a reality life. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather read a good book. Maybe just finish one of the many I am reading right now. Should I go with Mao and his killing or read about hope through the eyes of Obama? Maybe just get away from all that stuff and laugh at Bill Bryson telling me about A Short History of Nearly Everything. Aah. That what I want to do. Just read my book and let my mind slip away for a little bit. No anger here.

But how can I? How can I read a book when tomorrow the children will go and work those cocoa fields? The pages they flip are the pages of their life going past. One empty page after the other. Or maybe it is a horror. The horror of their lives. Living a Stephen King life larger than even he can imagine. But maybe some khat will help numb the pain. At least it will take away the glint in their eyes. And the empty pages of their life can be seen in their empty stares. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather play with my kids. Play outside like the crazy gang we are. Wild splashing we call swimming down at the lake. And go down that snowy hill when winter comes. Just me and my girls. Crazy, crazy, crazy. All I want is to hear their laughing and more laughing at their silly dad. Egging them on. Come on! You can do it girl! That’s what I would much rather want. Me and my crazy girls. Having fun. No anger here.

But how can I? When the other kids are running away from the warlord down the road. Playing dodgeball with the bullets. Not a sound of joy and belly laughs to be heard coming from their mouths. Just cries of pain as the bullets hit. Lucky if it misses. Dodge, dodge, dodge. That the games they play in the Congo. How can there be no anger?

I would must rather lie next to my wife. Falling asleep and hearing her breathe next to me. I can feel the stress of the day just slip away. Here is where I belong. Always telling her how much I love her. I can never say it too much or too often. And I run home because that is where I want to be. Just there next to her. My lovely wife. The one who gives me meaning. No anger here.

But how can I? When the women in Africa have to walk miles and miles just to get a drop of water for their homes. Every day. Down to the river and back. In the rush forgetting to boil it clean. And they see their families die around them. From a simple thing like drinking dirty water. How can I look at my wife and not see those women carry Africa on their backs being beaten and beaten and beaten. Day in and day out. Rape and murder. That’s what lies next to them at night. Death and destruction giving them meaning. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather just go on holiday. Maybe take a trip to Europe and visit those fancy French. Some cheese and red wine. Aah, that’s the life. Or laugh and point at Mickey and Minnie down at Disney. Maybe get away for just a week or two and visit my friend back home. Another trip to Bucks County would be nice. Just me and my three girls. Hanging out in New Hope for a drink and maybe a small piece of memory for the mantle. No anger here.

But how can I? When the only break my people get is another trade deal that fails. Or another empty promise for those dying of aids or malaria. Or the breaking of another leg as the torture continues in countries down South and East. But also here in the North and West. Broken promises to go with their broken lives. How can there be no anger?

I really just want to hang with my friends. Or drink a coffee by myself. Sip by sip. A braai and a good old fire. Learn to play the guitar like I’ve always wanted. Or write that bloody book that’s been bugging me for years. Save some money and retire early. Go for a drive in my car to watch the leaves go all rainbow in fall. The good things. That’s all I ever really want to do. Take it easy and stay easy. A smile, a laugh and good times.

I don’t want anger. I hate anger. It’s not nice. And it is not me.

Why am I angry?

I know happiness. I know what it is. I have it. Oh boy, do I have it. But I can’t enjoy it. At least not the way I want to enjoy it… Fully. I want to give myself totally to happiness. I want to live my happy days by throwing myself at it. Just living it 24/7.

That’s what pisses me off. That I can’t just enjoy life because of bigots. Because of liberty for some. Equality for those who can afford it. Freedom for those who were born free. Justice for those at the top.

I am angry because I can’t enjoy my life thanks to oppression of others. My right to have a fun time is shot to hell because of the rights of others being shot to hell. Bullet by bullet. Every warlord pisses me off because they remind me of what I am missing because of them. They are taking away my happiness because they are taking away the happiness of others.

I am angry because my friends and people I don’t even know can’t just love who they want. I love my wife. I love my wife. But the more I love her the more I am reminded of those who can’t love the way we love. That their love is somehow less meaningful than our love. I am pissed at bigots taking away happiness because they are taking away the rights of others.

I am pissed and angry for purely selfish reasons. I don’t want to fight for the rights of kids to have a shot at a life. I don’t want to fight for justice in the world trade and aid system. I don’t want to fight for the freedom of African women. I don’t want to fight for the equality of my gay friends who want to get married. I don’t want to fight for the liberty of the slaves working the sweatshops or farms in China or Africa. I don’t want to do all this crap. I want nothing to do with any of this.

I. Do. Not. Want. To. Do. This.

I just want to sit back and enjoy my life. Just me, my girls and my friends. Happy times. Good times.

But I can’t. And that is what pisses me off. That is what makes me angry. That is what makes me the Angry African.

I can only go do nothing when there is nothing to be done. When others can afford to do nothing. When everyone has a shot. You bloody people. With your rights and freedoms and liberty and equality and justice. Just have it already.

Fuck. Dammit. And everything and anything else that go with that.

I am because we are. Ubuntu.

I can only stop caring about what to watch on telly when there is nothing to care about. I can only be happy watching my kids go crazy when you have a shot at happiness. I can only have the liberty to drink my coffee sip after slow sip when you have liberty. I can only have my braai in peace when you have peace. I can only be the equal of my wife when we all are equal. I can only have justice when you have justice.  My freedom is your freedom…

I can only be free when you are free.

I can only be me when you can be you.

Until then… I am the Angry African.

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Well, 4th of July just passed. And the celebrations could be seen all around us. Flags flying, parades everywhere and fireworks to scare the cats – and kids. And it made me wonder – what does it mean to be a patriot?

We were sitting outside having a barbeque. American style. Burgers and all. Pretty American on 4th of July. Just us South Africans and an Aussie friend. Anyway… Our backyard neighbors were having their own party. Big family gathering. Even bigger griller. And meat to feed an army. At least a few divisions. And it went on and on. The crowd kept on growing and the noise kept on rising. We didn’t have a problem with it. They were having fun. Good clean fun. (And we loved the fireworks later in the evening – all courtesy of our partying neighbors.) And then we noticed the balloons.

Big balloons. All in the American colors. Red, white and blue. Stars and stripes everywhere. Almost every chair had a few of them tied to the back. Flying in the wind. This new type of flag. My wife and myself looked at each other and laughed. A very typical thing for us – we know each other way too well already! We said it at almost the same time, “I bet you those balloons were made in China!”

She won the right to blog on the “Made in China” joke. I really can’t say no to her. But it made me think of China. Again. And on the meaning of being proud of your country. Being a patriot.

And no. It wasn’t the “Free Tibet” flags that was made in China that made me think of China. It was my recent chats with a few Chinese in China that made me realize they are very proud of their country. Well, most of them anyway. Wherever I went they told me so. How they love their country and how proud they are of how China is developing. And, of course, the Beijing Olympics. For them the Olympics was about the Chinese people and not the Chinese government. A chance for us to meet China and the Chinese people. For them it was about them and their country. And not their government. I know, the Chinese government really secured the Olympics – not the people. But it still made sense. I know how it felt.

I have always loved my country. And my people. But I wasn’t always that proud of my government. The Apartheid government was not a regime to be proud of. Trust me. They weren’t. But I always loved my country. The mountains, the rivers, everything. And I really loved my people. It was an easy call. I loved my country. I loved my people. And I still saw myself as a patriot. I would defend my country and my people. But not my government. They were corrupt. In every sense of the word. If they asked me to go to war I would say no. If they asked me to vote in their rigged elections I wouldn’t. I would not listen to them and I would not support them in anything. But I would defend my country and my people. In my way. By protesting against the Apartheid regime. By speaking out when ever I got the chance. I would defy them. And challenge them. Because I was a patriot.

Over here in America people are asking the patriotism question. Again. And I am not just talking about Obama. Whether him wearing a flag or not makes him more or less patriotic. Like everyone wears that each day. Go do a Google search on the Mac and see how many times he wears one. Being a vet does not give you a free pass. Or at least I don’t think so. But this isn’t about Obama. Maybe only in an indirect way. The questions about him being American and being a patriot triggered some initial thoughts. But it isn’t about him. No, it’s about people who are claiming to be more patriotic than the next.

Supporting the war. That makes you a patriot. Being against gay marriages. That makes you a patriot. Not criticising President Bush. That makes you a patriot. Saying it is okay to hold people without trail and (maybe) torturing them. That makes you a patriot. Being in favour of subsidies for big oil but against universal health care. That makes you a patriot. Being Republican. Being conservative and against liberals. Listening to Rush and Bill. Watching Fox. Pro-flag. Anti-protests. And so on. And so on. It all makes you a patriot.

Or does it?

Were you a patriot if you supported the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII? Or were you a patriot when you tried to speak out against it? Were you a patriot when you supported segregation? Or were you a patriot when you acted against it? Were you a patriot when you lynched blacks and burned crosses and churches all over? Or were you a patriot when you marched against it? Were you a patriot when you supported a war to get rid of weapons of mass destruction? Or were you a patriot when you protested against a war with little evidence to support the claims of the President? Are you a patriot when you support a war no matter what the reasons? Or are you a patriot when you believe you can support the soldiers and still not agree with the war? Are you a patriot when you say other Americans are not American enough because they do not agree with everything you do or say? Or are you a patriot when you say that being an American means celebrating and loving diversity of all kinds – religion, color, languages, political thoughts, food and even stupid bloody movies?

You decide. I am not here to tell you what patriotism means in America. I can only tell you what it means for me as a South African. It means loving my country. Believing in my people. Caring for those around me. Looking after our land and the animals who live there. And speaking out when my government is unjust. Or just plain wrong. They are not my country. They are not my people. They do not stand for what my country stand for. Or at least not what the majority of us want our country to stand for. They are our government. They come and go. The people, the land and the spirit that make us never die. The meaning of being South African never come and go. It is more than the sum of us. It is that intangible meaning of us.

I am a patriotic South African when I disagree with my government when they are wrong. I am a patriot when I speak out against stupid decisions made by my government. I was a patriot when I protested against the government during Apartheid. I am a patriot when I speak out and protest against my government when I believe they are not being true to what we want our country to stand for – freedom, tolerance, equality and celebrating our diversity. And all the other good stuff.

And don’t confuse the patriotism bit with loving it or being proud of it. I love my children. But I am not proud of them when they do something wrong. I still love them. I still care for them. Deeply and without question. No less than before. But I also know I have to remind them of the rules. Our rules. Rules of respect, love and hard work. It does not make me less of a dad just because they need to know when I am disappointed with them. I tell them. But I also tell them I love them no less. I love them. I care for them. But I can’t always be proud of them. But I can be even more proud of them when they make right what they did wrong. That makes me love them even more. When they hold up their hands and say, “Yeah, I was wrong. Sorry dad.”

But driving a car made in Japan? Wearing clothes made in India? Eating food grown in Mexico? Drinking coffee grown in Ethiopia? Buying gas imported from Saudi Arabia? Reading books written by an Englishman? Watching a French movie? Having balloons made in China?

I don’t know. I like it when I see something made in South Africa. But I don’t buy it just because it is made in South Africa. I buy it (or not) because of many reasons – price, quality, taste, smell, functionality etc. Whatever. I buy it when I can. But I won’t buy a SUV just because it was made in South Africa. I’ll buy the less thirsty car made wherever.

A patriot. What is it? You decide. Because you make it. You build your country with every decision you make. The easy decisions and the difficult ones. They all count. There is no end. You build it every day. America is different from what it was a 100 years ago. Every single day you are still working on it. Keeping the good bits alive. And turning it into something new and making it relevant for society today. No end game. It’s not a game. It a journey. With no end destination. And every step counts. Every person count.

Every American count. Every American equals one brick. And you decide how strong you want this structure called America to be. You place your brick. You make it strong or you make it weak. It isn’t easy. And it has never been easy to build this great nation. It wasn’t easy to fight the British for independence. It wasn’t easy to free the slaves. It wasn’t easy to give women voting rights. It wasn’t easy to fight in WWII. It wasn’t easy to end segregation. It wasn’t easy to pull out of Vietnam. But it was the right thing to do.

Are you a patriot? Just wait before you answer. First ask yourself what does it mean to be a patriot? Define it. Look around and ask if this is what your fellow countrymen mean by it? Do you agree with it? What is your America? Happy you got all the info you need? Good. Now answer it. Are you a patriot?

Just don’t forget to look in the mirror when you answer.

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I am ashamed. Ashamed of being a South African. Ashamed of the behaviour of my countrymen. Ashamed of South Africans. Ashamed of South Africa. And every South African should be. Be ashamed.

I have never been ashamed of being a South African. Well, not since 1994 anyway. Before that – I was very ashamed. But for all the right reasons. We were fighting against the most corrupt and violent system in the world. Against Apartheid. Against oppression. Against discrimination. Against the violence they committed against our people. Against murdering the innocent. Against killing those who can’t protect themselves.

But now I am ashamed. For the first time since 1994. I am deeply ashamed. Because we are doing to others what the Apartheid regime did to our people. To us. And we are doing this to those who already suffer the most. Who have already suffered at the hands of their own people. Their corrupt and violent regimes. Their Apartheid regimes. And now we do it to them here in our own country. Against those who have been hunted down in their own country. And tried to find a bit of safety in the townships. In the streets. And you turned on them.

Like cowards. In numbers. Because you think you are so tough with your tyres and your matches. And your pangas and machetes. But you are cowards. Cowards. Because you kill from behind the safety of your numbers. Killing their dream. And killing my dream.

The dream is being shattered by a group of cowards. Bastards. Traitors. You don’t deserve to be called South African. You are not worth the dirt on our streets. You are not worth the spit on my shoes. You are dead to me. Dead to me.

You don’t do that. You don’t kill other people. You don’t murder them because you hate foreigners. Don’t blame the immigrants. You don’t blame them for being without a job. You don’t blame them for being without a house. You don’t blame them. You just don’t blame them. And you don’t take it out on them. Never.

Look in the mirror you bastards. Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are worth it. Worth the breath that I take. Worth the words on this page. Because you are not. You are nothing. You are animals. Not even. You are nothing.

How you forget. How you forget how these same people housed our people when they were hunted down in South Africa. Zimbabwe. They housed you. They housed your people. Our people. When we were in exile. When we were hunted down like animals. And now you do it. Like Mugabe did it to them in their own home. You are no better than Mugabe. The mad one. You are no better.

You are no better than the perpetrators of Apartheid. You are no better than them. You are no better than the animals that did this to our people. Look at this picture and ask yourself. How are you better than the people that did this to our people? I tell you how. You are no better. You are no better than Craig Williamson. No better than Ferdi Barnard. You are Eugene de Kock.

You spit on our people who died at Sharpeville. You spit on the killing of the Guguleto 7. You spit on the deaths at the Bisho Massacre. You spit on the 27 years Madiba spent in jail for people like you. You spit on the murder of Biko. You spit on the memories of Braam Fischer. The memory of each and every South African who died and suffered for you to have freedom. Every mother. Every father. Every wife. Every husband. Every sisters. Every brother. Every child. You spit on their suffering.

No. You are not just as bad as those perpetrators of Apartheid. You are worse. Because you should know better. This has happened to you. How could you? How the hell could you?

You are dead to me. You are not South African. You are animals. You deserve nothing. You fight for your country. You don’t fight the oppressed. You don’t fight those who have suffered like our people have suffered. You comfort them and protect them. You don’t hunt them down and kill them. You are bastards. And you deserve nothing. Not a crumb of bread. Not a drop of water. Not an ounce of sympathy. Not an inch of understanding. Not a second of analysis. Nothing. Because you mean nothing.

You bastards. You traitors. You animals. The blood is on your hands. You are dead to me.

And my dreams are dead.

____________________________

Note to my government: Mbeki. Be the leader we need. Be the strong and just leader we need. Be a President in action and not only in name. Lead us. Right now. I have always stood up for you. Defended you. No more. Now is the time to show me why I believed in you. show me it wasn’t just empty words. Time to show what you are made of. The burden is on you right now. This is your hour. A defining moment in your Presidency. Will you fail or will you succeed? Show no mercy to these murderers. Be a leader. Lead. Zuma. Shut up and be the leader we need to know you are. Show us what we can expect. Have no sympathy. Because these dogs deserve no sympathy. None. But most of all. Protect those who are being hunted down. Hold them tight and tell them it will be okay. And make it okay. Because they are our flesh and blood. Not the bastards who are traitors to our country. Those who try and call themselves South Africans. They are dead to us. Show them they don’t deserve our great country. They are not South African.

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Another week. And more of the weak.

1. Good news and bad news from the Boss

First the sad news. Danny Federici died on April 17, 2008. I am a Springsteen and E Street Band addict. I have every single album going back to Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. released in January 1973. And Danny has been there from the start. (Not me – I was hardly alive back then.) But Danny was there. Playing the organ and keyboard – and glockenspiel even. He was a centre piece in the E Street puzzle. Heart and soul. Heart and soul man. Danny. Phantom. Miami Dan. See you on the other side. On the Backstreets. Legend. No more words. It’s Danny. And he is gone. Long live Danny.

The Boss, Mr Springsteen for those non-believers, has officially endorsed Obama. In his words, Obama “speaks to the America I’ve envisioned in my music for the past 35 years.” But didn’t he do something similar in 2004? Actually, he didn’t. In 2004 he stood on an anti-Bush platform. Today the Boss is standing for something and someone. Obama.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. They lost a legend. And they embraced another.

2. Africans let it all hang out

It’s almost summer and everyone is coming up with new ideas on how to save on gas and electricity. And no, I don’t mean not driving to the beach. I mean those house-bound chores. Well, you thought Earth Day might be big. Try National Hanging Out Day. That special day on April 19 when we celebrate the good old clothesline. Huh? You have a special day for this? For hanging clothes on a line outside? I know about hanging out. Do it at the bar as often as I can to save on water. And I know about letting it all hang out. Hey, we invented the lion-cloth remember. Sorry, I meant loincloth. Anyway, you decide whether you want to hang it out, hanging out or let it all hang out this Saturday. But whatever you do. The aim is to help nature and not to go el natural.

3. Popping pills – not so good

Just when we thought we had it down to a T. All this healthy living stuff. Most of the developing world live longer than ever before. And every single day they find new ways to warn us how we are going to either explode or wrinkle away any minute now. Today vitamins are taking a hit. Yep. Vitamins. Those pills you pop every morning. Those right next to the Meridia, Claritin, Celebrex, Lipitor, Prozac, Glucophage and Viagra. OK. Maybe not that last one so early in the morning. But we are constantly told about the new ways that we are going to die. Got diabetes? Catch 22. Drink the pill and die from heart disease. Drink water? Careful with all those chemicals inside. Eating oranges? Sorry, just a tad too much sugar. Running for fitness? Check the stress on your body mate. Yes. Every single day they find new ways for us to die. I guess we need new things to worry about now that most of us live longer. We are running out of ideas on what to be scared of. So what about that “new” last 20 years added to your life? Here, have these to worry about – just don’t drink the Kool-Aid. I think I will go and have a Whopper, a smoke and a Quad Venti Latte with loads of sugar and full cream milk please. I worry that if I don’t die younger I will die from worrying about what I might die of when I get too old. You know, I am running out of options on what to worry about if I live to long. Damn, the longer we live the more ways we find on how to die. Most healthy way of living according to the scary health quacks doctors and freaks experts? Don’t eat, don’t drink and don’t breathe. All of those have bad things that can make you die younger even though you live to a ripe old age nowadays. And the only way you can be in a state where you don’t eat, drink or breathe? Being dead. So the quicker you die the healthier you will be. Thanks Doc. I just remembered why I don’t visit so often anymore. I’ll just eat my apple a day. No?

4. Dude, the water is narly

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water again… Well, actually it is safe to go into the water now. Sort of. The House of Reprehensibles, sorry – Representatives, just passed another law. This time to do something about that dirty sea water we all run to in summer. They’ll clean it up for us. (Hum, was hoping they could focus the cleaning on themselves a bit and not hang their dirty laundry for all to see.) Anyway, the water will hopefully be ready for all by summer. You would think this is a good thing hey? I beg to differ. Firstly, those damn Texans will now go to the US beaches instead of spending their dollars in my old hometown in South Africa – Cape Town. They’ll think the water is just as clean here as over there – so why go? We’ll miss their dollars man. (But not all of the Texans.) A good thing for America right? Not entirely… Think of those queues at the snack shop at the beach… And the queues at the ice-cream van… And the beached whales… Clean beaches and water will attract other less savory characters as well. The Brits and the Germans. The Brits out in the sun with nothing but a costume will blind you if the sun shines baby. Those are damn white bodies. Oh, I forgot – they turn red in an instant when the sun shines. But the Germans? Get used to the fact that they will take your spot on the beach and sit in their Lederhosen scanning the horizon. Don’t talk to them. They won’t know when you are serious or joking. They will laugh at anything. You know Germans and their fine-tuned humor right? Lastly, with the water nice and clear and clean – guess who else can see and smell so much better? Yes, that is a fin coming your way baby. Happy swimming. Or walking on water if I was you. See – even when the government does something right I can find fault… And I didn’t even get to the surfer part.

5. Old Man Nader

I know. I know I have been on about the age of McCain. Mac – the Old Man of the Siege. And make no mistake. He is old. But his problem isn’t him losing the power in his grip. It is that he already lost his grip on reality. The problem isn’t that he would be up in any case at 3 am for his toilet run. No, the problem is that he will make the wrong choice at 3 am. The problem isn’t his false teeth falling out. It is his false war policies falling flat. Yes, the Old Man of the Siege. But another old man is losing it just as quickly. That guy hiding behind the wall of shame. Old Man Nader. This is the guy who started a student revolution? Gotta be a long, long time ago. Well, he is older than even McCain. Nader – the student revolutionary. The man who created a student movement. The man who should be young at heart. You know. Down with us young ones (okay, I stretch it at my age). Asked whether he thinks the young voters will come out, he responded by saying, “if there was a draft they would. They sure would“. Ralph, Ralph, Ralph. You wouldn’t have achieved anything if you had this attitude back in the old days. You aren’t losing it. You have lost it. Less relevant than even in 2004. You’ve already lost the vote. Don’t let us start losing respect as well man.

Cheers people. Have a good one and see you later.

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