It's a fight for my freedom to love...

It's a fight for my freedom to love...

I am pissed. Really pissed. I can’t believe that another piece of bigotry was allowed to be written into law. By those pseudo liberals from California. Actually, those pseudo people from California. No Californification for you then.

I mean really. Get off it. Let people love who they want to love. Why can’t you live with that? Why can’t two people who love not marry each other? Sorry. I guess you don’t believe in a happy marriage and would rather continue with the “woman barefoot in the kitchen” style fake love marriage you have. How about those pregnant teenagers then hey? Or the wife beating? Like the child abuse going around?

Actually, that is unfair. That can happen to anyone. But my point is that marriage is nothing sacred to protect for a group of men and women partners only. Really. What the hell is so sacred about it? This country gets divorced left right and centre. We have loveless marriages. We have arranged marriages. We have rape in marriage. We have child abuse in marriages. We have all this crap in marriages.

And none of that can be blamed on gays! You stupid… argh! You did that. Not me. And not my friends. You killed marriage. With your stupidity and superiority complex of failure and violence. Dip…

You know what? I love my wife. More than life itself. And I look around me and see very few marriages actually working. And guess what? Those marriages where people actually focus on each other and how much they love each other? They don’t give a damn what you call it or who else are allowed to get married. As long as (i) you don’t f*ck with their marriage and (ii) you have a chance of having the same love as they have. We want people to get married for love because we want to save the idea of being married.

Dammit…

Let my people marry!

Clean your own house. Clean your own church. Clean your own crap before you tell other people what they can or cannot do. This is how we get into trouble each and every bloody time. Someone somewhere deciding that their way is the only way and let’s go plant a bomb / start a war / execute someone / torture a few people / etc. Look inside and fix that you stupid… argh… I promised my wife I won’t swear.

No one is telling you who you should marry. No one is telling you what you should do. So shut the hell up about other people. Okay…

Let’s play this game.

You are not allowed to have a sense of fashion. You are not allowed to be happy. You are not allowed to smile and laugh. You are not allowed to be gay – in the smiling and laughing way I mean. You are not allowed to be flamboyant. You are not allowed to be an actor. You are not allowed to watch a movie with ANY gay actors or characters. You are not allowed to love.

We’ll leave that for us. You have your stinking marriage and put it where the sun don’t shine. You can kill marriages like you have done over the last 1,000 years and more. But you can’t kill love.

Let there be love. Let there be love…

Today I hope that my daughters will one day be gay. This way they stand a better chance of finding true love and see true tolerance in life.

Take your marriage and go flush it down the toilet like you have done since you “owned” it. You are killing it but you can never kill love. That’s what we have to offer. We didn’t plan on killing your holy marriage. You didn’t even know it but we are here to save the concept of marriage. To let two people who love each other make a lifetime commitment to each other. Respect each other. Honor each other. Love each other. Always…

You are flushing away the chance of saving this beautiful practice of marriage. Because you covered your eyes with your blinkers of hate. Well done. I hope you are proud. But not as loud or proud as us.

May God be ashamed of you and what you stand for.

I know I am. And I am bloody “straight”. You are not one of me. You don’t represent me. You don’t represent what my marriage stands for. You never have and never will.

My marriage is one of love. Somehow you just don’t get that.

The right to love. The right to marriage. It’s basic human rights.

It’s simple. You’re stupid.

Now go and leave us alone.

You know what I am really afraid of? That my own marriage and right to love will be next. That this limitation on marriage threatens my marriage. You never know when or where bigots will stop. Their history tells me they won’t stop anywhere we would think they would stop. Guantanamo Bay – they did this. Torture – they did this. Iraq – they did this. It’s always them. Those who look at others and find ways to hate and discriminate. Who forget to love and live first. This fight for my friends to marry the one they love is a fight for my right to stay married to the one I love. And a fight for my daughters to marry someone who will love them the way I love their mother. With no strings attached. Just pure and perfect love. I am fighting for my wife and my daughters. For their happiness. And their life. This fight is my fight. Our fight. A fight for a life of love.

Let there be love.

Dammit. Liberty, justice, freedom and equality for all.

Just add love…

To you bigots out there. Here is a nice little song for you. From the bottom of our hearts…

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To Vanessa, Mark, Randy, Steve and all my friends. I am sorry. I am truly deeply sorry. But I will never give up this fight. Never ever. We beat Apartheid and we’ll beat this crap as well. Remember: Justice, equality, freedom and liberty ALWAYS wins. We are right. We will overcome. We will win. Today is just a little bump in the road. Tomorrow we fight again. We will not be defeated. We might lose a battle but never the war.

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We won and we lost. Obama winning helped to put one piece of injustice to sleep. But injustice is still with us. Discrimination is still lurking in the laws. Liberty is still for the select few. Freedom is still not for all of us. Equality still hunts us down like we were on cotton plantations.

Because “they” are still not allowed to get married. “They” are still held as second class citizens. Tell me? Who the hell are “they”?

Bullshit. Bullshit I tell you.

It’s like playing that whack-the-mole game. You hit one piece of bigotry on the head and another one pops up. Whack! Whack! Whack! It never stops. But unlike the game, we can’t pull the plug on bigotry. Their batteries get charged by their own hatred.

Look. I am REALLY getting sick and tired of this. There is no “they”.

There. Is. No. They.

There is only us. “They” are you who are bigots. The only people who are “they” are those who preach hatred. Hatred for gays, hatred for Africans, hatred for African-Americans, hatred for rednecks, hatred for Jews, hatred for Muslims, hatred for Christians, hatred for… and more hatred and more hatred and more hatred.

You! Yes you! Bigot! That one who hates gays. Or who doesn’t want “them” to have the same rights as everyone else. All that separates you from burning “them” on a cross is some wood and matches. All that separates you from strapping a bomb to your chest and blowing them up is a book in your hand and a different language. Bigotry is bigotry. Hatred is hatred. It’s only the degrees that differ.

You think you are so different from those who kill innocent people elsewhere in the name of a jihad? You think you are so different from those policemen who killed Biko? You think you are so different from the Christians who murdered during the Crusade? You think you are so different from those who flew those planes? You think you are so different from those who kept slaves on the plantations? Who burned people at stakes? You think you are better than a Hutu or a Tutsi? You think you are better than the priests leading Jesus to the cross?

You are not. You are no better. You are separated only by the degrees of action. You speak the same language. You spew the same hatred. You can cloak it in nice words. But so did Hitler. So did Pontius Pilot. So did PW Botha. So did Mao. So did Stalin. So did everyone who believed they were better than “the others”.

You are no better than those who killed and murdered. You are them. Separated by a small degree of heat. A small step. One action separates you. Just one. They are your brothers. Your keepers. In thought and prayer.

Don’t ever call me straight. I am not straight. I am me. Who I sleep with and who I love has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with my bad fashion sense. It has nothing to do with my anger. It has nothing to do with defining who I am inside.

I have no choice about who I am. I am because we are. I have no choice about being straight. I have no choice about being gay. I am just me. Like the color of my skin is not my choice. And my gender is not my choice. Or where I was born was not my choice. It is who I am. We should not be defined by these parts of who we are. We should be defined by our love and compassion for others and for ourselves.

Hell, if I had a choice I would not have chosen to be a pale heterosexual male. Except for the fact that it helped me find the love of my life it is nothing to be proud of. It is nothing special. In fact, I don’t like many of those who look like me. Hitler, Bush, Stalin, Verwoerd – all white males proclaiming to be straight. Too many bigots wear the same “clothes”.

I don’t ever want to be defined as heterosexual. I don’t. Because I am not. I am just a person who met another person and who loves. It could have been anyone. It just happened to be someone from the opposite gender. I didn’t make the choice to love her. It just happened.

That’s all I want the world to have. Just to feel the same love I feel. I don’t care who you are. Jew, Christian, gay, Muslim, straight, male, female, black, white, Chinese, Russian. I don’t care.

I. Don’t. Care.

All I want is “us” to all feel love. And see a better future together. As us. Not as “them” and “us”. There is only us in this world. All of us.

There is no such thing as a “gay issue”. Any injustice is my issue. Our injustice. Any limitation on freedom is a limitation of my freedom. Our freedom. Any inequality takes away my equality. Our equality. Any time the liberty of others are restricted then my liberty is restricted. Our liberty. Any place love is threatened my love is threatened. Our love. There can be no “others”. There can be no “gay issue”. There is only my issues. And our issues. We all have freedom, liberty, equality, justice, life, love and opportunity. Or I have none. I am not gay. But I am gay. 

I am the “gay issue”. We are the “gay issue”.

Because… I am because we are.

All of us. I am us. I am the “we”.

We will not fail each other. Because there is no gay issue. There is only an us issue.

 

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A few other posts of mine looking at the “gay issue”:

The “gay problem” or The Idiot’s Guide to Bigotry

The Gay Agenda

And one more thing

How to solve the “gay marriage problem”

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A friend of mine just passed me this link to something Keith Olbermann had to say on gay marriages. I missed it completely as I don’t watch enough telly. But it seems as if Keith and myself have more in common than what I thought. Go watch what he had to say. It is long. But it is worth it. His questions are very similar to mine. Just more eloquently put…

While I am pissed and on the topic. You know. About gay marriages and gay rights.

I know I am meant to be a bit nicer. Engage you at an “adult” level. Try and convince you of my superior intellect and position through carefully crafted words and engaging you constructively (wow – that took a lot out of me!). Well…

Stuff that. I don’t have time for that anymore. I will treat you like you deserve to be treated. With no respect. With nothing but contempt. You don’t deserve an adult discussion. You don’t deserve the attention of my keyboard. You don’t deserve me having to think of better and nicer words. Because you deserve nothing. You are nothing.

Nothing will change your narrow stupid little mind. You will always have another reason why to hate and discriminate. So why should I treat you with any respect if you don’t treat any of my friends or me with any respect. Should I do it to show that I am a better person? Sorry. That doesn’t work with me. I know I am a better person than you. I don’t need to prove it to you or anyone like you. I do not need your approval. In fact, I do not need you. You will always hate. You will always discriminate. I don’t need you. I just need my friends. We’re just fine, thank you.

And another thing. When you talk about gay marriages. When you talk about “them”. You know, “them”. Well, stop it. I hate it. Because you force me to talk about my friends in a way that doesn’t make sense. I hate it when you talk as if they are some group with their own little world. Their own little box and pigeonhole. “Them”.

I am sorry to disappoint you. There isn’t any “them”. There is only us. Me and my friends. We don’t need you. We have friends. We are friends. All we need from you is to crawl back in your swamp and leave us alone. The world will be better off without you.

Yes. There is just us. And you. And I go for us.

Just love

Just love

I will be nice once you decide to be nice. Until then I will treat you like you treat my friends. No more mister nice guy. We have a world to fix. And don’t need you to divert our love and attention. You are tiring. Go away. And go live in your cave. Evolve or dissolve. Until then… Bye-bye.

I take the train every day. Going in to work and going home. Me and my commute. Pretty lame. Same train in and same train out. Most mornings I get a seat and sit down and just listen to my iPod and go through my Bloglines. Some mornings it is packed. Just packed liked sardines. And this morning was one of those mornings.

I got a seat though – an aisle seat. It wasn’t that full when I got on. I opened my laptop and starting going through my morning routine. But the train filled up pretty quickly – more than the usual (damn Boston marathon). A few stops later an older gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could take the middle seat. No problem. I got up and he shuffled in. Oh, he was a gentleman all right. He had a bow-tie on! On a Thursday morning people! Anyway, as I was about to sit down I saw her. This older lady standing next to me in the aisle.

There was no seat for her. All taken. So I closed my laptop and slipped it into my backpack. Looked at her and pointed to my seat. Mouthed, “please take this one”. (I still had my iPod on so couldn’t talk.) She looked somewhat bewildered. Not sure what I was doing. I paused the iPod and said, “Please take this seat“. She tried to argue and shook her head. But I wasn’t having any of it. I got out the way and moved sideways so that she had little choice but to take the seat. She looked at me while I closed my bag and flipped it on my back and was still looking at me when I straightened up. She smiled. It was a warm smile that said thank you in a million ways, but I could see in her face that she was still a little bit puzzled. Wondering what the hell I was doing. I smiled back and moved on.

I walked to the front of the carriage where I was planning on standing for the next twenty odd minutes. As I walked I realized that she had no clue why I did it. Why I got out of my seat. Why I smiled politely and asked her to take my seat. And she didn’t have a chance to hear my accent either – I hardly spoke. And she wouldn’t be able to hear it clearly over the noisy train in any case.

I got to my new standing room and looked around me. I was pretty much one of a handful of people standing. But we stopped at a few more places on the way to my station – Back Bay. And each time more people will get on and stand with me. And many of them were women. No one got up to offer their seat. No one. Not the young dude sitting on the seat next to where I stood. He was busy on his laptop and listening to his iPod. Not the youngish guy sitting next to him. He was busy eating his yogurt and muesli. Not the middle-aged man sitting on the seat behind them. He was reading the newspaper. Not a single one of them got up and offered their seat. And I wondered why.

Why don’t these men get up and offer their seats? Are they to selfish? Or are they just too involved in their reading or music or eating? Are they just too involved in themselves to notice? Are they so lost in themselves that they don’t realize there is a world around them? Are they so self-absorbed in their belief that they own the world that they don’t realize those who love them and gave berth to them are all arounf them? Are they so self-obsessed that they don’t notice they are not the centre of the universe? Don’t they notice the women around them?

Was I brought up wrong? My mother taught me to respect women. Not only in what she said, but in the way she brought me up. And the way she treated me and expected me to treat other people. Where did she go wrong? Am I wrong in getting up and offering (almost insisting) my seat to the older lady? Am I being sexist in getting up and letting a woman take my seat? Am I just being a stereotypical male in trying to be nice and respectful?

Some would argue yes. And so be it. I won’t try to convince them. But I won’t stop getting up. No I won’t. I will continue to offer my seat. I believe that men and women are equal. I have two daughters and fiercely proud of them. They can rule the world if they want. There is nothing they can’t do. There is no man better than them on this earth. Oh men would like to believe they are better. But they are not. They are just men. No better than women. The best they can hope is that they are not too far behind.

But me believing in equality doesn’t mean that I don’t think that men are different from women either. We are different. Just take off your clothes and have a look. You’ll notice a few things that stand out. Or not. Men and women are equals. But men and women are different. Note that we have two words to describe the two of us. But being different doesn’t mean we are not equal. We are. We just treat each other differently.

And I won’t stop doing it. I open the doors for women because it is my way of showing respect. I get up and offer my seat because I want to show them I do honor them. I offer them my place in the queue because I want them to know we are not all bastards.

Women are treated differently. And most of the time not in a good way. Want that job? Be prepared to be paid less. Be prepared to be overlooked for promotion. Want to get married? Be prepared to cook, clean, work and be the sex-kitten. Be prepared to change your name. And it is women who are beaten by their partners. And it is women who are raped. And it is men that kill their wives. And it is men that cheat. Oh don’t tell me it happens the other way around as well. I know that. But the difference? More men do it. Far too many men. And somehow those figures have made it more “acceptable” to expect it from men. The murders and the rapes and the cheating. Yes. We are equal. But different. In the way we treat each other.

And the men come home from work and slowly drain the soul of their wives. Listening, but never listening. There, but never being there. Never wondering what their wives did while they were at work. And what their wives lives have become. Never thinking whether the dreams of their wives might have involved more than just being their partner, cleaning the house, cooking the meal and bringing up the kids. Serving the men. Slowly suffocating. Women. Equal. But different.

So sorry if I open the door. Sorry if I offer my seat. Sorry if I smile. Sorry if I make way for you to go first. Sorry if I offer to hold your bag or push your trolley. Sorry if I do these things. I don’t mean to offend. I don’t mean in any way that you are less than me. I don’t want to insult you. It’s just my little way of saying sorry. Sorry that I am one of them. Sorry for what you have to face each day. Sorry for a life that isn’t fair. Sorry for the bastards that don’t even know they are doing it. But most of all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for putting up with us. Thank you for giving birth to us. Thank you for making us better than what we really are. Thanks you for being a women.

Equal. But different.

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I have mentioned Oxfam before. How I struggled to get a job there, the issues I have with the campaigns, and my beef with Oxfam. Now I want to tell you about another Oxfam experience that have clouded my views. I know I am bias. But these experiences have influenced my thinking. Read My beef with Oxfam to see what I think of Oxfam and especially the people at Oxfam. I respect them and the work they do. But the world doesn’t always work the way we expect it to work. Sometimes mistakes are made. And sometimes it is made by the best out there.

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Working for Oxfam was one of the worst working experiences I ever had – if not the worst. And I say this with a heavy heart because I was so looking forward to joining Oxfam. My wife, daughter and me were celebrating into the late hours of the night when we got the news that I got the job. We worked hard for it. We had disappointment after disappointment trying to land that bloody Oxfam job. One rejection after the other. Months and months went by – and all we got was bad news. So when we got the call to tell us we got the job we went wild. This was what I wanted. To work for an organisation like Oxfam. A deeply committed organisation that makes a difference each and every day. And I was going to be part of that. Man, this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Making a difference by working for an organisation who had both the people who were deeply committed and the resources to make a real impact in this world.

 

But even the best of plans don’t always work out. And it started off very badly.

 

We knew that I had to start off a few notches below my level of experience in South Africa. That’s just how the world works. Or as we say, “That’s how the cookie crumbles”. And the French would say, “C’est la vie”. People don’t think that an African has experience that is relevant to fighting poverty and campaigning at a global level. They believe that we are too stuck in Africa and have less of a global view and experience than them. I don’t agree – but that was the hand that was dealt to me. How living on a mud-patch in the middle of the ocean gives you more experience and wisdom than people living in and amongst poverty I don’t know. But that’s England for you – letting the world know that it will help them, as long as it is the English way or no way. Tsk, tsk. Do I smell colonialism alive and well in the heart buried so deep they don’t even know it?

 

So I accepted the job at Oxfam knowing that it will be tight in the beginning. Especially with a kid and all (we didn’t know it yet, but my wife fell pregnant in those few days before we left South Africa or just as we got to England – the jury is still out on that one). And the move destroyed any “reserves” we had in the financial department as well. It is expensive to move from one country to another. I mean really. Can’t we just get a standard electrical system so I don’t have to replace everything each time? And with communications nowadays – can’t banks talk to each other? Nope, sorry sir, we don’t talk to other banks. Here’s the catch. Even if you bank with say Barclay’s in Zambia, it won’t help you if you try to bank with Barclay’s in England – they don’t talk to each other. (Rolling my eyes right now.) Yes, each time I moved I lost all credit history. And man, it is better to have a bad credit history than none.

 

Oxfam covered loads, but not all. We even had to take out a loan to cover some of the expenses. So we knew that the salary would be lower in England, but we were committed to this cause and knew that although it will be tight we will make it. Just make it. No room to breathe.

 

When I was made the offer to join Oxfam they told me that I will get an allowance to help pay for accommodation. And that it would be paid for four years. That was great news and I even got it in writing as I needed this to rent a place and open a bank account. It also meant that although it would be very tight, my wife could take a few months to help settle in and look after our daughter while she started her new school. We picked a nice area to stay in and everything was set for us to start our new life in Oxford. Oxfam here I come!

 

We landed in cold November. Hell it was cold. Never been in such cold weather in all my life. We moved into a guesthouse for a few days before we could move into our nice little home in Woodstock just outside Oxford. It used to be a glove factory before they changed it into four small houses. We were the first to move into our little place. Rented, but a roof over our heads. But first I had to go and sign a few documents at Oxfam and just generally get the paperwork done. So off I went to the Oxfam offices to sign some documents. I never felt so excited to just sign a few documents! I was going to meet my new colleagues at last! This smiling paw-paw from Africa they’ll tell themselves when I leave. I was smiling ear to ear.

 

But that visit turned sour very, very quickly. I got to Oxfam and they immediately sat me down and told me that they made a mistake. That I wasn’t meant to get the accommodation allowance. I was stunned. Absolutely stunned. I got it in writing! Confirmed it twice! And now this? I already signed the rental agreement and got my kid into school! You can’t do this! Not on my first day. But they did…

 

I was in an extremely vulnerable position. I wasn’t sure of all my rights under the UK law. I might have been a trade unionist in South Africa, but this was way, way foreign. And Maggie pretty much killed the unions back in the 80’s in any case. But I had a bigger problem. I brought my family to the UK and could not just return to South Africa as we made a huge financial commitment to move over to the UK. I resigned my job in South Africa. Sold my house. Took out a loan to cover some moving expenses. But most of all – I promised my wife and daughter that everything will be great in the UK. More than anything – I was just stunned that this great organisation that fight injustice globally could even do this. It just didn’t seem right. Or just.

 

I tried to discuss it with Oxfam. But I felt vulnerable. There was no union to protect me and I couldn’t play hardball in this foreign country with little money and no other prospects. Oxfam argued that it was a mistake by them and that legally they didn’t have to do anything. Since when did legal arguments stop Oxfam from doing the right thing? I mean really? They fight unjust trade laws, human rights, and pharmaceutical laws each and every day. Now they were hiding behind these same reasons that their campaign targets gave them! That’s double standard. Right?

 

They made me an offer to pay for a few months, but that was it. They made it clear. No way were they going to pay according to the original agreement – not even close. I had to lump it or leave it. Take it or go back where I came from.

 

I folded. I accepted. Not that I wanted to accept. But I felt I had no choice. I mean really. I just started working at Oxfam, and moving to a new country and having to set up a new home was stressful enough for me not to have to try and worry about losing my job even before I started. We discussed our options, but knew we had little choice but to except. I thought that we would be able to maybe sort something out and move to a small place and my wife could work as well – not knowing that my wife was pregnant.

 

When the offer was made I also thought it wise to accept it as I did not want to ‘rock-the-boat’ within the first few days that I was here. How would Oxfam react if I demanded that they paid me what they agreed to pay? I did not want to start in a new job having to fight that same organisation I just committed to – an organisation I wanted to be proud of working for. Maybe I should have. But I didn’t.

 

Now remember that we are not talking about a small amount here. We are talking about $1,500 per month! A huge amount for the UK especially where everything is so much more expensive than anywhere I have ever lived in. This had a huge impact on our lives. More than we expected even in the worse case scenario.

 

What annoys me is that the people from the UK did not realise that we could not bring over any of our financial history to the UK. This made it very difficult to get any favourable or even comparable financial terms in the UK (or the US). I was a homeowner and banked with the same bank for almost 20 years in South Africa – but in the UK this meant nothing. I was treated like a 16-year old drunk driver with a drug problem – that’s done some time in jail for theft and bankruptcy.

 

Oxfam might argue that it did act within the rules or organisational limitations. But what would Oxfam do if this was a company acting like this? Promising someone a certain wage and then when the person start tell them they made a mistake and that they are getting a substantial amount less than before? The point is not what the rules say (rigged rules) – the point is whether Oxfam believed this was the right action to take. Does it seem just and right to you? (Oh, rigged rules is a specific reference to an Oxfam campaign slogan and publication on trade called… Rigged Rules and Double Standards!)

 

But it wasn’t just me. I realized soon that many people from Africa and other developing countries joining Oxfam suffered this way. I asked for a meeting with Human Resources to help solve these issues. Not my issues – the broader issue of discrimination so other don’t have to face the same as me and my African colleagues. And got no answer. I tried every second week for almost two years. I am still waiting for my meeting…

 

Oxfam seemed a cold place for us from Africa. Colder than the weather outside in November.

 

I wonder how Oxfam treated the Brits? Those from the mighty United Kingdom? Very, very different. And the rules are rigged in their favour. British expats taking up a position in Africa get a lot more help from Oxfam than those coming to Oxford. Whatever the reason – it does not make sense from an African perspective and no one understands the reasoning. Why should someone get more financial support when moving to Johannesburg if they are British, but an African moving to Oxford does not get the same. I know the Oxfam rules states that – but then it is just rigged rules.

 

I lost that battle. And it eventually drove me away from Oxfam. I knew it was time to leave when my pregnant wife had to go and work in a pub at night. At night because then I was at home to look after our daughter. Remember, we had no family to help us out. My wife. My proud, proud wife who never complained. Well, okay – she never complained much. Rigged rule, Oxfam. Rigged rules and no human(e) rights and no justice. It just wasn’t fair trade was it? Just not cricket. Rigged Rules and Double Standards…

 

I have received a few emails and comments about South Africa from South Africans ever since I wrote my blog on Zuma. It was also published in the Mail & Guardian Thought Leader section – a respected South African newspaper. In my eyes still the best paper around no matter where you go in the world. And it caused a bit of a stir over there. No problem with the comments. People were just being their typical South African self. Either calling me too white or too black – depending on where they stood politically. And either defending South Africa or moaning and bitching about South Africa. But what I didn’t like was people assuming that I somehow have something in common with them because I don’t like Zuma and I don’t trust Zuma. That I somehow don’t like the South Africa of today.

Most of these people were white South Africans. Most of them thought I didn’t like the current government or the “new” South Africa. And most of them decided that I am one of them. One of those who think of the good old days before 1994 when the ANC won the election. The good old days of Apartheid. Sorry boet, you got the wrong guy here. I am not one of you.

Yes. These countrymen of mine complain about crime. They moan about affirmative action. They bitch about corruption. And they cry about how their beautiful country is going down the drain. Sorry guys. You are… hum…  barking up the wrong tree. You won’t get any sympathy here.

You are living in a dream if you think it was better under Apartheid. Maybe it would have been for you. The same way it was better for the “Aryan race” in Germany while Hitler and his “people” were killing their “enemies” – Jews and Gypsies to start off with. And after that – everyone. Maybe it would have been better for you then. If you had blue eyes, blond hair and a nice white skin to go with that. Yes. That was what South Africa under Apartheid was like. An no thank you. We don’t want to go back there. It was never better for South Africans under Apartheid – only for some.

You think that crime is a problem in South Africa? You are damn right it is a problem. And it is a problem in the USA. And in the UK. And in China. And in Japan. You name it and there is a problem. But let’s remind ourselves how bad it was during those “good old days of Apartheid”.

Imagine you are sleeping in your bed. Just lying there in your shack. Lying with your loved one while the rain comes down in buckets. Your leaky roof can’t stand the rain forever. And then it starts leaking. Somewhere there is always a hole to plug. Tonight you are lucky. It isn’t leaking over the bed. Just on the floor. And the floor has no covering. It is a mud-pool by now. And the carpets you picked up at the dump is starting to smell because of the water running all over it. But it is okay. You are safe. You have your loved one with you. And tomorrow the sun will shine and dry your home. Tomorrow will be a better day. But it is time to rest those weary eyes and the weary body for a little bit tonight. Tomorrow is another long day looking for a job at the factory or the mines. Another day looking for something to feed your family and survive another day.

But then you get ripped out of your sleep with the sound of doors breaking and people shouting. It’s your door tonight. There are flashlights everywhere in your house. Just everywhere. People shouting. You can see them coming for you. Those lights are coming for you. You know who they are. They do this almost every night. And tonight it is your turn. It is the cops. The special police. The police who take people away. And they almost never return.

You try to fight but there is no hope. Your shack doesn’t have a window big enough for you to jump out of. And there is no time in any case. You go for your panga under the bed. But it is too late. They are on top of you and they start hitting you with their guns and kicking with their boots. And you can feel the skin break away from your face. You scream for help. But you know there will be no help tonight. You beg them to stop. To just leave your wife alone. But you know they never stop. And then, thankfully, you lose consciousness. The darkness sets in and you can’t feel the pain anymore.

You wake up and you are in the back of the van. Just you tied up and a tire to keep you company. That tire. You have heard of it before. And the cops go for a spin. A joy-ride through the veld. And the tire starts bouncing all over in the back of the bakkie. You know they do this on purpose. Because nothing can stop that tire. Nothing can stop it from going wild in the back where you two are alone – just you and the tire. Nothing stopping it from hitting you with all its might while you are tied up. And you wonder where is your wife. Is she alive? Did they rape her like so many other of the woman? But tonight you are lucky. The tire hits you on the head and knocks you out. No more pain from the body shots you take from the tire. And no more thinking of your wife. Just you and the darkness.

You wake up and you are still tied up. But this time you are hanging from the roof of a cell. Hanging from your arms tied up. Hanging with your feet off the ground. The pain doesn’t mean anything anymore. You know where you are. You know where you are. And there is no way out. You are in their place. The place where people die.

You open your eyes and slowly look around. You see their faces. Those white faces smoking and telling jokes to each other in Afrikaans. You try and be still so they can’t see you are awake, but it is too late. You hear them say something and pointing at you. But you don’t understand their language. You have heard it on the streets in town. But you don’t speak it. You are fresh from Transkei. And speak only Xhosa.

But you hear that word when they poke you with their batons. Kaffir… You know what that means. Oh, you know what that means. Kaffir

They shout at you. You don’t know how to answer. You don’t know what they are saying. You just don’t understand. You ask them in Xhosa about your wife. But they hit you on the soles of your feet. Oh God it hurts. But you still don’t know what to say. Or how to ask. They show you the pictures you had in your house. The pictures of Biko. And they hit you and hit you. And you scream and you cry. For you. For your wife. For Biko. And for your people. But you still don’t know what to say. And all you understand is kaffir. And then the darkness comes again.

Tonight you were lucky. They didn’t kill you. Not tonight. They drop you off in the township. Far away from your home. Just kicked you out the back of the bakkie. And let you lie in the street while you try to get up and get out the way. You just want to find your wife. Just a last few kicks from them and then they are off. People help you up and take you away. Strangers. But not. These are the people who suffer like you.

No job. No house. No vote. No restaurants for all to use. No toilets to use as an equal. No bus to ride with the people around you. No hospital to look after all the people. No police to protect you. Just to hunt you. No man or woman to stand up for you in parliament. Just the head tax you have to pay and the pass you have to carry. You do not exist in the eyes of the white man. Only as an animal to work their mines and their factories. No ownership and no say. You have no right in this country of your ancestors. Nothing. You are nothing. But you are everything.

Tonight you were lucky. You were lucky to make it back. You were lucky to make it out alive. Biko wasn’t that lucky when they took him. He was chained to that window grill for a whole day. And brutally beaten for 26 days – day in and day out. And he fought and he fought. Until he could no more. And then, on that day on 12 September 1977 he died. In prison. From those injuries. From those beatings. And the judge said the head injuries were self inflicted. That he committed suicide. And the police were innocent. Because there were no witnesses. Yes. Tonight you were lucky.

So don’t think that I am one of you. Don’t think that it was ever better under Apartheid. It was never better under Apartheid. NEVER. People were killed. People were murdered. People were treated worse than the dogs of the white man. People had no rights. They couldn’t own anything. They couldn’t take any job – only those lowly jobs. People couldn’t go to the best schools. People could even buy their food where you bought yours. They couldn’t vote and they couldn’t own anything. No political rights. And no economic rights. People were treated as nothing. No. Worse than nothing.

So don’t think that I should feel sorry for you. Is it tough today? Yes it is. But life is tough. Life isn’t fair. Life can never be fair after Apartheid. You can decide if you want to give up and moan and bitch about how bad you have it. How “they” discriminate against you. How corrupt the government is. How bad Zuma is. And that could all be right. But never ever think that it was better under Apartheid. Think of Biko. A man of peace. A man who was tortured for 26 days. And then he was murdered. And we still don’t know. Still don’t know who did it.

Go read Antjie Krog’s Country of my skull. Go read the volumes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And then go to your mothers and your fathers. And ask them, “How could you allow this to happen? How could not have known? What have you done? What have you done to me – your own child?”

We have forgiven. We cried together as a country. We got it off our chest. The pain. The pain to us and the pain of those who lost their lives under Apartheid. But don’t ever think we will forget. We are not allowed to forget. We owe it to Biko. And we owe it to the namesless faces who just never made it back. We owe it to them to make it better. we are not a perfect country and we all need to work to make it better. Our government can be better. Our economy can be better. Our police can be better. Our bloody electricity can be better.

But there never was any “good old days of Apartheid”. And don’t forget it. I am not your friend. I am your brother. I am your blood and I am your fellow South African. But I am not you. And never will be. Because there never was ANY “good old days of Apartheid”.

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What is it with these people? What is it about immigrants that gets people so worked up. There is always someone they need to hide from or get away from. No matter where you go in this world – there is always some immigrant group in a country that is seen as worse than the “original” colonialists… sorry, I mean inhabitants. Yes, every single country I have been to have some group that they look down at and want to get out of “their” country.

Let’s start with South Africa – my home (when I am not working and living in other countries…). It is well documented that South Africans are the most peace loving people in the world. Never had any problems in our history. Just a good old bunch of farmers sweating away in the field and herding our cattle – and hiding from the lions. Just peace and love in our history, right? Not true. As you might know, we’ve had our fair share of problems in the past. Hell, Apartheid was all about immigrants. White (Afrikaner) South Africans saying that this is their place. That they where here first and that they don’t want the black “immigrants” to come and live in their country. And black South Africans arguing that they were here first and did not want the colonialists (immigrants) in their country either. Both stood a better chance of winning the popular vote today because of the rising immigrant debate globally. But both are so bloody wrong. Neither of them where “here” first. That goes to the Khoikhoi (and Khoisan). So neither group actually “owned” South Africa. The one moved in from the north and the other from the South. And the poor Khoikhoi got caught up in the middle – squeezed by both sides and moved on to more arid lands (or stayed and mingled). Of course there are two groups black and white (Afrikaner) South African really don’t like – Nigerians and the English. The English? Well because they are the original colonialist (okay, I know the Dutch landed first, but you know what I mean). And because they are still here talking in their fancy ways and living in the big houses up the hill. You know, generally just looking down at us “locals”. The Nigerians are disliked because they are all seen as drug dealing pimps and scam artists roaming the backstreets and stealing our money. Yes, we in South Africa have our problems with immigrants – you see, it is never our fault. Always the fault of others – the English and the Nigerians. Racism? Of course not. We in South Africa would never do something like that after our own experiences under Apartheid. That would be double standards right?

We should go to China to learn about living in harmony with each other. China doesn’t have a racism problem. You see, according to a study in China “there is no racism in China because there are no black people…” Hum. Yes. The less said the better.

It is a problem in Japan though. Japan is increasingly racist and anti immigrants. It is unheard of for a non-Japanese person to go to the Japanese baths. Why? Because it is apparently a culture clash. But it is not just Westerners that are treated with disrespect. No. Special treatment for those from Korea and China. The anti-immigrant feelings in Japan has always been high. Westerners got off easy as they are not seen as people who will stay long – and there is some notion that these Westerners are well off. But the Chinese and Koreans – now they are bad. They want to take Japanese jobs, stay long and settle, and slowly but surely smother Japanese culture – i.e. take over Japan by stealth. The UN has long warned about deep seated racism in Japan. So don’t think that the Japanese live some wholesome lives – drinking sake and eating sushi. No. The racism of immigrate haters are alive and well over there as well.

And in Eastern Europe? I made a trip to Hungary a few years ago. And guess what. They have their targeted groups as well. Over there it is the Gypsy – or the Romani to be more politically correct. They are spat at and generally looked down at – a universal view of immigrants. They live on their own and do the worse jobs possible. The work no one else wants to do – another universal immigrant tendency. And Kosovo? Without getting into a political debate on whether it is right or wrong for them to declare independence – the “Gypsy” moved into this land while the Serbs lived there. But the treatment of the Gypsy (previously believed to also be Roma) resulted in more conflict and resentment. And we know what happened there.

The immigration debate has come a long way in the UK. Right wing parties like the UK Independence Party and British National Party has long flourished moaning and bitching about immigrants. And now they have even more to target. With the enlargement of the EU more Eastern Europeans have moved to the UK to find work. Yes. They do the worse jobs available – like all immigrants. Those jobs that the British feel they are too good to do. The hard labor and long hours. Because they don’t have that social safety net that the government provides for the “natural” inhabitants. As if a Brit will take on one of those jobs! No. They are too happy to live on the dole and go to the pub each night. Served by a Polak working on below minimum wage. Or a Pakistani working in the chippy where the Brits get their late night snack. No Brit would do work like that.

But it is time to strike back. What the UK did now is make it even more difficult for immigrants to get in. And the immigrants have had enough of this blatant racism. A few of them are taking the Brits to court. Okay, they are a privileged few immigrant. But they have had enough. Enough of the racism that the English call immigration control.

And now we get to the US. Here the immigration “issue” is a central debate in the elections. Especially immigration from Mexicans – or Hispanics to be exact. It makes little sense to me. Those Americans complaining aren’t Levi 501’s by any stretch of the imagination. They are not original. They came here from elsewhere and are a country of proud American immigrants. I find the fact that Americans can be immensely proud of being American and their original roots unbelievable uplifting. African American or Italian American. It doesn’t matter – you have roots but your soul belongs to America. So why the hatred towards people who did what your father and grandfather did?

Maybe they are scared that these immigrants will do what they did to the original inhabitants – kill them. Yes. That was the traditional way that immigrants dealt with the locals many years ago. Just kills them and put the few that survive in camps they can call their own. The US did it. Australia did it. And South Africa tried it (although oddly enough not with the “real” locals the Khoikhoi). Don’t worry – they won’t do anything to you. We have grown up a bit since you did that. Just don’t be so shit scared of them the whole time. Show them the good time they can have with you as long as they respect the basic rules of engagement in your country.

But there is an even deeper racism in the immigration laws – especially in the UK. You see, it is easy for those from Europe and other rich developed countries to get into the UK. But not for those from Africa. No. We need special visas to prove how we deserve to get in. Not needed for the rich white guy from the US. But you from Uganda? Try again buddy. That’s my real beef with their approach to immigration. They even discriminate against immigrants from different countries differently – I call it deepened and entrenched racism. It was okay to travel to the UK under Apartheid – just flash that passport and your up and away. It was mostly white guys who traveled thanks to the control by the white government over who could travel (white) and who could not (black). Now? Oh, now we have a black government so the UK brings in new laws to make it tougher to get in. Jeez guys, can’t you even attempt a bit harder to hide your racist behavior a bit better. And we thought you were happy Apartheid was over. Thanks for showing how much you really like the new South Africa.

No wait. I should shut up right now. You see there is an advantage to being a non-Hispanic in the US. I am treated like royalty. It’s the accent you see. They think I am “exotic” and full of wisdom. Not really. I am not even an immigrant – just visiting before I invade my next country.

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