We’ve been married for 19 years today. She is my ubuntu. My meaning. I am because we are. I can tell you how much I love her and never get even close to telling you how I really feel. How she makes me feel. How she makes me better than what I am. I can never tell you How I Love My Wife…

How do I love my wife? In so many ways…

I love how I never want to write about my love for her because I know that I can never say it just the way I want to. And how I know that I still wouldn’t be able to say or write it the right way even if I was more gifted than Shakespeare. How words can never tell the story of my love for her. Because words have boundaries.

I love how I travel all over the world and still eat in my hotel room because nothing is worth experiencing without her next to me. How every scene is so much more beautiful and every morsel tastes so much better when she can see it and taste it. I love how she doesn’t get why I eat alone my hotel room.

I love how she holds me and asks me what is wrong when I don’t know how to say what is wrong. When all that is wrong is that the world just got a little bit too heavy. And that all I need is her arms around me to make me feel safe and strong again.

I love how I listen to that stupid Hero song of Enrique and cry because I just want to be her hero. I just want to wipe away the tears. I want to kiss away the pain. I just want to stand by her forever. Because she always takes my breath away.

I love how she has to bite her lip when she laughs when I do my silly South African accents. And how she laughs with no sound and the tears runs down her face. And she’s laughing at my stupid jokes.

I love how she pretends to need me even though she is so much stronger than me. I know she doesn’t climb mountains. She will make the mountains come to her. And that they will just obey.

I love how she speaks with a “little voice” when she gets back from shopping and asks me “Don’t you want to help me carry?” And how I know there will be a little something in there for me.

I love how I try to be funny and tell silly jokes and how I peep at her to see if she is laughing. And how I carry on until I see the beauty of her smile. And the happiness in her laughter.

I love how I used to hate Tom Cruise for taking the best line with “You complete me”. But how I know he didn’t even get close. She makes me. Not complete. She just makes me. Me.

I love how she laughs and shakes her head and says “What am I going to do with you?” whenever I make one of my suggestive comments. And how I do it just to hear those words.

I love how people make fun of me for always talking about my wife whenever they travel with me. How they poke fun at me for missing my wife and always phoning her.

I love how I look at her and compare every girl I see to her. And how no one compares even if they are on the pages of magazines or in leading roles in the movies. 

I love how she is the centre of our universe. How she holds everything together and give meaning to our family. Stronger than gravity or any law of science.

I love how my smile gets bigger the closer I get to home. How I just want to run and laugh because I know she will be there and everything will be just fine.

I love how she asks me to tickle her back and that I have no hope in hell of getting one back. But how I don’t mind because I just love touching her.

I love how she wanted me even though she could get anyone she wanted. And how she stays with me even though she can get anyone she wants. 

I love seeing her walk and watching her when she doesn’t know I am looking. And how I still have to build up the courage to ask her out.

I love how her hand feels in mine when we walk with the girls. I love how I touch her while she’s walking and kiss her on her cheek.

I love how I tell her I love her whenever I see her. Even if I just came into the kitchen from the lounge. I love how she says it back. 

I love how my heart still races when I kiss her when we make out. How her lips make me forget everything that makes me mad.

I love how she had a picture of Sawyer from Lost on her screen and how she doesn’t know I have one of her on mine.

I love how she acts all needy when she wants me to get her some Coke or crisps. And how I love getting it for her.

I love how it sometimes feels as if I am going to burst because our love feels like it is bigger than the cosmos.

I love how she buys me the new Springsteen album even though she hates his music because I overplayed it.

I love how she used to remind me of Sinead O’Connor, but how Sinead now reminds me of my wife.

I love how she is the last person I speak to before I fly off and the first person I phone when I land.

I love how I still get butterflies when she reaches for my hand without her knowing she is doing it.

I love how she eggs me on to go play with the girls even though she knows it will drive her crazy.

I love how she is the first thing that touches my lips in the morning and the last thing at night.

I love how she holds me and looks into my eyes when she tells me that she loves me more.

I love how I know why John was clinging to Yoko like that on the Rolling Stones cover.

I love how she phones me 4 or 5 times a day even if I can only take a call or two.

I love how I know what it means to love someone more than I love life.

I love how I know every part of her body but still don’t know enough.

I love how she completes my sentences and makes more sense.

I love how she puts her hand on my leg when we go for a drive.

I love how she believes in me even when I have my doubts.

I love how I would rather be at home than anywhere else.

I love how I do everything just to impress her.

I love how I know real love because of her.

I love how she loves me.

I love how I love her.

I love her.

I love how I can write another million words and still not tell you how I love my wife.

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I can write and write about my baby and never get enough or ever get close to telling you how I feel. Here are a few more about my baby and me:

Quick! Pull My Finger!

She Had To Wee

The Girl I Didn’t Like (or How I Met My Wife)

Ubuntu (or It’s Like Breathing)

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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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Those REALLY regular and early readers might recall that I wrote a bit about the fat kids once – Let the fat kids play. I can hear the voices already…

“Oh come on! You can’t call the kids that! They are only kids. Shame, poor them.”

Tough. Fat became a swear word because of the pictures we see in the magazines telling us all that we would be so much better if we all look like Brad or Angelina. Or any of those thin chicks selling us the latest perfume or underwear. Okay, I don’t personally wear the underwear but… Anyway…

So tough. These kids are fat. Toughen up or shed some weight. Or just be happy with how you look. It could be worse. You could be too thin. Oh sorry, that doesn’t exist – according to the magazines that cover our delicate consciousness. But being fat is a problem.

Now we call it a “disease”. The obesity “disease”. Crap people. It isn’t a disease. HIV/Aids is a disease. Eating too much crap isn’t a disease. It’s just eating too much crap.

I know, I know. There are a few people that gain weight because of a hormone imbalance or some serious medical issue. But really… Most cases of “big boned” people are due to an imbalance between the ears. Don’t try to pull that crap on me. I am not thin. Maybe “slightly” over my ideal Barack Obama weight. But I’m still closer to Obama than Rush Limbaugh. In so many ways. I don’t eat too much crap and I don’t talk too much crap. (Stop laughing.) I know my excuse – I’m not fat, I’m just lazy. What’s your excuse?

Crap stays crap. Just don’t believe your own lies or that doctor that feeds you crap stories. Your own crappola of excuses. “Obesity is a disease.” Puh-leeze…

Who told you to stuff your face with that Big Mac or KFC Extra Crispy or donut from Dunkin’s? You ate it. Now live with it. Stop bitching. Stop telling me to not make it sound so awful. It is awful – live with it or stop it. Sorry, you won’t find any sympathy here.

You want to take McDonald’s to court? Sue Burger King for their jewels? Did they force it down your throat? Oh… They didn’t warn you about how bad it is… WTF? Are you stupid?

Stuffing your face with too much food is bad. Stuffing your face with too much crap food is even worse. It is NOT rocket science…

I know, it isn’t really the kids fault. But it sure as hell isn’t the fault of the crap-making fast food joints. Ronald doesn’t sit next to you and force the last morsel of a Big Mac down you throat. And neither did the government. So who should be “blamed”?

Hellooooo… Parents!

Or maybe I shouldn’t call you that. You aren’t parents. You are household engineers. Parenting isn’t good enough anymore. Actually, you are right. You can’t be called parents – because you are not parents. And you haven’t been parents since you had that kid in the first place.

Parenting means you have a kid (or kids) and that you are responsible for them and for how they grow up. Not someone else. Not your mom. Or uncle George the President. Or Ms Burns at the school. It’s YOU.

How can you feed your kids crap and call yourself parents? Here is a hot dog for dinner darling. And a nice oily pizza tomorrow night. How about a nice Mac ‘n Cheese from the box on Saturday? Sunday is so special when we all go to T.G.I Friday’s and eat a plate of more crap. Just after we’ve been to The Cheesecake Factory for breakfast. Don’t forget to go all “healthy” when you gulp down the Diet Pepsi to go with you thick slice of cheesecake – extra cream please. Crap parents feed kids crap food 24/7.

Crap, crap, crap.

That’s what we feed our kids and how we act as parents.

Let me brag for a minute…

Many moons ago we took our youngest daughter to Wendy’s. We were driving up in New Hampshire and decided to stop for a quick bite on our way back. It was going to be our first time at Wendy’s. The youngest one was so excited. Wendy’s! Yeah! She loved the ad with the guy and the weird hair. It must be good! She ordered her burger and fries. Big eyes and all excited – jumping up and down. “I’m gonna have a Wendy’s!” And then the food came…

“Where’s my broccolili?” What she calls broccoli. That was her first question. She didn’t touch the burger because she thought it was crap. Hum… Not her exact words but you get my drift. We haven’t been back since. She doesn’t like crap. And she doesn’t take crap. She’s an African all right.

Six days a week she gets a proper meal at dinner that includes at least two vegetables. And she LOVES broccoli. And peas. And carrots. And she eats a good breakfast. And most of the time she gets food made and packed by my lovely wife for her school lunch and snack. Yes. Home made stuff. I know… It is way out there in crunchy-hippie world for most people…

Once a week we eat crap. A pizza on a Saturday or some burgers. Guess what? Most of the time we make those hamburgers or pizzas ourselves. Hand-made patties and dough. And they help me make the food when I cook crap. It’s part of the fun. And it tastes better than the crap from the joint down the road. Oh, did I mention we spend time together doing this?

Sometimes we order out or we eat out. It is seen as a “treat” when things are crazy otherwise. Maybe Olive Garden or Uno’s where the girls can still make their own pizza. Whatever. It’s a break and not the norm.

And our kids eat what we eat.

We cook dinner for all of us and eat together – all of us. It is the highlight of my day. I get home and we sit together as a family and talk crap instead of eat crap, drive my lovely suffering wife crazy and eat our food. Together. A family. You give our kids the option of eating in front of the telly or at the table together and they choose…. The table! Even when we parents want to sit back and veg in front of the idiot-box and eat our food from a tray… They don’t want that. They insist we sit together as a family around the table. Ha! I am more popular than Spongebob Squarepants! And they are only 5 and 11… Teaching us about parenting.

And we all eat the same food.

How can parents make different food for the kids? You should eat a proper meal if you are old enough to talk. Not some crappy hot dog or a mac ‘n cheese. You are feeding them crap and then you wonder why they get fat or get sick easily. Or do you eat crap to start off with? Why all this crap?

Because it is crap! The food and you!

I am no model parent but this I know. My kids eat healthy food and enjoy eating healthy food because that is what we all eat together as a family. They make a link between broccolili and dad and mom sitting with them around the table and eating – and having fun as a family together. They see good food and think of good times. They compliment their mother (and sometimes me) on the food they have every night without anyone asking. Why? Because they actually like the food!

We already joke when the little one asks, “What are we having for dinner mom?” And you can say anything – chicken with carrots and honey, tomato bredie (stew), goggas (spaghetti bolognese) or whatever. She’ll always have the same reply… “I looove tomato bredie” Or whatever we are having.

They eat crap as well. They are kids. But we know what they need daily to keep them healthy and keep us being healthy parents.

Feed your kids crap and be surprised that they get called “fatty” at school? Who is the stupid one now?

Don’t even get me started on education. Everyone wants education to improve. A better school. A better chance for their kids. “Just get my kid a good school and education. You know a chance to make it in this world.”

Okay, but how about parenting. How about you starting to become a parent? Too many parents see the school taking over the role of the parents. Your responsibility towards your kids does not stop when the kid goes off to school. Being a parent isn’t something you hand over. You take responsibility of that. Sort your parenting out before you start bitching about education. Guess what… Education today is better than what it was 100 years ago – Parenting not.

Do you read to your kid at night? Do you help with the homework instead of ignoring them or (even worse) doing their homework with them? Do you take time to be interested in showing them the wonders of snow? Or point at the stars and the full moon? Maybe hunt for treasure in the forest or park? Turn over stones to see what is hiding? Or ask them what they’ve done at school? Or little things like coloring in with them? Or do you spend your time with them creating more crap?

Crap food. Crap education. It starts where? You guessed it…

All this crap starts with… Parenting.

Parents eat crap. Parents watch crap. Parents learn nothing. Parents do nothing. And the kids follow them down to the gallows.

Fat kids and stupid parents. They go hand in hand.

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hello

“Hello.”

And then a big smile and a wave.

I just loved it. Just loved it. My oldest daughter used to walk around greeting everyone in the streets. It doesn’t matter who they were. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know them. She just smiled and waved, and said hello. We do that in Africa. Walk around like a bunch of happy-clappies waving and greeting and smiling at people we don’t know.

It made me feel part of something bigger. Just knowing that they are my people. We are one big family. Really. You should see how we greet each other. Not just a little nod of the head or lifting of the eyebrow. No, not us crazy Africans. We go all out. We say hello as if it is our best friend that we haven’t seen for years. The long lost brother. The sister that went to college. The Biblical son returning. “How are you?” “I’m great thanks! And you?” “Great! Cheers!” Crazy Africans.

We have enough shit going on in Africa to enjoy the little things like greeting each other on the streets. Just acknowledging that it’s okay. That we are okay. That we are somehow connected.

It didn’t matter where I was in Africa. I can be walking in the streets in Zimbabwe and people will greet me and I will greet them – with a smile. I’ll sit in a bar in Zambia and someone will walk over and start talking to me. Asking questions about where I’m from and what I’m doing in Lusaka or do I want another beer. “Hey buddy, why don’t you come with us to the Green Frog?” Aah… The Green Frog. Dancing and drinking with people I’ve never met and will most likely never see again. The market in Bamako (Mali) and the guy walking with me to show me around and help me out with the French spoken at the stalls. Guess what. He didn’t want to get paid for it. He just wanted to show me his town and maybe have a beer with me.

It used to drive my wife crazy. I’ll walk into a bar and “check out the scene”. Searching for my next victim… I mean “friend”. Anyone that’s alone. And I’ll start talking to them. It is especially good when it is a foreigner. Just talk and hear their stories. Where they are from, how is their mom and dad, what they are doing over here, what beer do they want. You name it and I’ll talk about it. I’ve heard some great stories thanks to these strangers. And then we’ll say goodbye and never talk again. But I’ll remember them and I hope they’ll remember me. The crazy guy from Africa. They were African for a day or two. One of us. All of us. And it started with a simple “hello”.

And I miss that.

I miss the warmth. The sense of humanity. The acknowledgement of each other. The small moments of happiness. The connection of life and living.

And I miss seeing my daughters do that.

My oldest daughter was just a few years old when we moved over to the UK. She still walked around greeting everyone. Thank God we stayed in a small village of about 2,000 people. They got to know her. The crazy African kid who greets everyone. At first people stared at her and then slowly looked up at us parent, thinking that she must be a “special needs” kid. Some even gave us the “shame, poor you” look. Feeling sorry for these parents with the backward kid. But the little one didn’t care. She just kept on greeting.

And slowly but surely she won them over. The older people were the first to come around to her way of thinking. They loved seeing her greeting and waving at them. Shocked at first and then just a huge smile thanks to this skinny little girl with the big eyes and even bigger smile. And the looks they gave us parents – that was just all that was needed for us to know that we were okay as parents. They would look at us and greet us as well. With a big smile and a thank you in their eyes. And sometimes a little “What a nice little girl” comment to go with that.

My youngest one – born in the UK with the American accent (but South African passport)? Well, I don’t know if it is in our blood. But she greets people. She’ll stop to talk to people as we walk to the park. Especially if they have a baby or a dog. “Isn’t she cute dad?” Me? “Hi, sorry about that. She just loves babies.”

When did I lose my “hello”?

I really can’t say. I don’t know when it happened. Maybe it was the continuous looks I got in the UK. Or the stares in the US. Maybe I started switching off after too many blank returns and rejections. But I don’t really greet strangers anymore. And I miss that.

We don’t accept peple for who they are anymore. We are too scared. Scared shitless. We reject people for who we think they might be.

I am not crazy. I am not a rapist. I am not a child molester. I am not a sex offender. I am not a maniac. I am not a murderer. I’m not a mugger. I am just me. Living a life and trying to be as good as what I can be. I live Ubuntu. But Ubuntu isn’t always around.

Must I wear a banner around my neck to say who I am not?

I see little kids and sad grown-ups around me. All I want to do is stop for a minute and ask them how they are. Maybe give the little one a hug and a kiss. Tell them that the world will be okay. Just go and be a kid and enjoy going down the slide for a while. Swing low and swing high. Go around and around on the merry-go-round. It a bit like life. But without the worries that go with it.

But I can’t. Because of others.

I have to pick my battles. Be friendly to the person behind the counter at Honey Farms. Smile at the girl in Starbucks. At a push, talk to the person squashed in next to me when the train is packed like sardines. Hug a client I got to know really well. Or kiss a friend I haven’t seen for a while. On the cheek, of course. Oh so European.

What have we done? What the fuck have we done? To this world and to our lives?

Why can’t we even stop and talk anymore? Or just greet each other?

I know some things are cultural. Where I come from we kiss on the lips just to say hello. Men and women. Okay, more women than men. But I kiss my cousins on the lips when I see them. Men and women. I kissed my father on the lips even though we hardly spoke. And my brother. And my brother-in-laws. Even my ex brother-in-law. I kiss my best friends. On the lips. It’s just a hello.

I don’t want anything more from them. I just want to feel the link. That we are one. That we love each other. In a different way than when I kiss my wife. But so many times I just want to kiss the person I am friends with. Say hello in the way I know best because it means I open myself to my most vulnerable self. Take my lips. Our eyes will be close for a minute and the connection is confirmed. Just a kiss hello.

But I can’t. We can’t. It doesn’t fit in with our culture. At best I can get a hug. Or a kiss on the cheek. And I can live with that. It is easier because I know them already. We are already friends. There is already some connection. And with time it will grow. I hope.

But I know I miss my hello. When talking to strangers.

I have become one of those who worry about my kids. Not like when I was young. I could play in the streets and talk to strangers. But not today. Not in the life we live and the craziness that goes around.

Even that little girl in the blue house. I gave her hugs and ruffled her hair. But I always had to check who was looking. Just to make sure they don’t think anything funny was going on. She was just a little girl. Needing a hug. And I had to check that no one thought anything else.

How did we become like this?

We can say it is because of all the weirdos out there. The rapists and the child abusers and stealers of kids. I know they are out there. But somewhere along the line we allowed them to win. We allowed them to define who we are. And how we say hello.

How did the hello start to hurt us? How did the hello become a way to divide us? How did the hello move from love to scare?

I struggle with this every single day. How do you bring up your child to love everyone and still know about the danger out there? I don’t know. We all play it safe. We tell them not to say hello. Not to talk to strangers. Not to trust people they don’t know. Not to just say hello to everyone.

And slowly but surely we kill ourselves as we kill the hello inside our kids.

Talking to strangers.

How did we become the strangers?

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I thought it might be a good thing to look back at why I started blogging. You know, while I’m taking a coffee break. I first started writing as An Accidental Activist. Can’t get away from all the “A’s” I guess. It was meant to be about stories of my life and how I got here. I started writing about my past to leave something for my kids to read one day. For them to see what their dad was about. My past and my journey. Hope they will still believe their old man was okay. But I started ranting and raving about issues that pissed me off and someone said, “You are a real angry African on the loose”. (Thanks Cheryl.) And that’s how I got the name Angry African. Not as romantic or inspirational as what people might think. But it flowed onwards from there.

I wrote a few pieces under An Accidental Activist. Like I said, mostly about my life so far. I think it is time to look back at the first post I ever wrote. Just in case you missed it. I might edit it a bit this time. Add something or take something away. Or just rewrite pieces. Or nothing! But unlikely I’ll do nothing! I’ll see where it takes me. (Note: I did rewrite loads and added quite a bit!)

This was my first post ever. Introducing myself. Now reintroducing myself. Then called “An Accidental Activist: I wasn’t born to be an activist“. Now revisited…

Roots Revisited: I wasn’t born to be an Angry african

I wasn’t born to be an activist. Or an angry African. Quite the opposite, really. I was born to be the stereotypical ‘good, racist Afrikaner’ in Apartheid South Africa. My family supported Apartheid and all of them worked for the Apartheid regime at some stage in their lives. We lived off the fat of the Apartheid land. And for most part went through life nice and ignorant. Just the way they liked it.

I had everything a young boy could think of. Days playing in the streets with my friends. A bicycle to ride to school with. Playing sport on some of the best fields of dreams out there. Cool clothes that made me look like I just stepped out of of Miami Vice. A plate of unbelievable food every day – meat, potatoes and rice being staple food for Afrikaners. Friends and family everywhere around me. Good times. Fun times. Unreal times. Lying times.

My dad was a Brigadier in the South African Prison Services, and one of his last assignments was to look after political prisoners at Pollsmoor prison. We didn’t get along. Even when I was still “his (racist) little boy”. Both my sisters worked at the prison service at some stage of their lives and married guys who worked at the prison services. And my brother worked for the prison services on Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was jailed. They have all left since then. Maybe realizing that the life we were told was real life wasn’t that real after all. And that it wasn’t that great for everyone living in South Africa.

I grew up in a home that did everything the Apartheid government wanted us to do. We were part of the Dutch Reformed Church – the Apartheid government in prayer. We went to Church every Sunday. To Sunday school. I got confirmed at a Dutch Reformed Church when I was 16 or something. We were the Church. I left the Dutch Reformed Church. And they have left me.

We watched rugby – then the sport of the white Afrikaner. We went to Newlands on a Saturday to watch our team play other white boys. We went to club rugby games to see our local white boys play other white boys from neighboring towns. I played rugby for my school and practiced almost every day. We played other white schools on a Saturday morning before we went to Newlands. I walked away from it for a while, but rugby stayed with me. Still loved it, but couldn’t face it. It changed when our national team won the World Cup in 1995 and we could all call it our team. But I now I know it was another tool under Apartheid before that beautiful day in 1994 when we had our first democratic elections. Politics on the field. And we didn’t even know it. I didn’t know it when I was a kid.

I went to school at Paarl Gymnasium – one of the best Apartheid schools in South Africa. I attended the University of Stellenbosch – the ‘brain trust‘ of the Apartheid policies and politics. We read the Apartheid government approved newspapers and watched their TV. I benefited from the education they provided and the money they paid my dad. I was made for a life supporting and working for the Apartheid government. I was a star pupil of the Apartheid system. And I didn’t even know it. But I should have.

I was well on my way to become one of them. I did everything they expected me to do. I was a young racist Afrikaner, ready to take my place in their world. Well, at least the small world within the white community in South Africa. But somehow it didn’t happen though.

Somewhere along the line things didn’t work out the way they planned. Maybe it was the fact that I poked fun at everything. Acted out Apartheid leaders on stage in one man shows at school. Half of the people laughing and the teachers staring at me not knowing if I was making a political statement or just being funny. I was just being funny. I didn’t know about politics. But I knew funny.

Maybe it was because my mother told me to question everything. To look beyond the obvious. Maybe it was just that the world wasn’t right. Even for a young kid it didn’t always seem just right. Why can’t I have black friends dad? Why can’t they come over to play? What are those shacks in the townships? Why don’t those kids have nice clothes dad? Why do they look so thin and dirty? See, there dad! Just on the other side of the fence if you look out the car window dad. Come on, you can’t not see them daddy! Why aren’t they allowed on the beaches dad? It’s just a beach, isn’t it? They are pretty funny when you talk to them dad. Really, just speak to them, you’ll see. I see and speak to them often at the station when I go to cricket games. Why do they ride in the other carriages dad? Looks a bit cramped in there. And the buses. Look dad! We have one of them working in our house. She looks after me when you aren’t here. She’s nice. She could be family. She is family dad. She gives nice hugs when I hurt my knee or cut my finger. Why do we call them “them” dad? They look like me. Eat like me. Play like me. They are me daddy…

Slowly but surely I became everything that Apartheid was against – an activist. An Angry African. Speaking out against their system. “Them” taking me in as one of “their” own and becoming me. I am because they are. I became them. I am them. The Apartheid “them” becoming the people I saw as different.  As the others. Instead of being the man they wanted me to be, I became the man I wanted to be. It hasn’t always been easy. It hasn’t always been fun. But it always felt right. From Stellenbosch to Seattle, Mali to Monterrey, and Lusaka to London – no matter where the road took me, it always felt right, and it always felt as if I belonged. I felt like this was what I was meant to be. Just me.

Why was it important to write about this? I don’t know. I hope I didn’t offend anyone. But it is important to know who we are. That we come from places we can’t always be proud of. That we have a history. I don’t know if it is important to know this about me. But it is for me. Maybe just to let you know that we aren’t always born into what we become. That we have choices. We can take the bad and the good and still be someone we can face when we look in the mirror. That we don’t have to be proud of everything in our past. But that we can take our past and own it. You can be born into hatred but still come out hugging the world. That’s the beauty of life – you can be who and what you want to be no matter where you come from. You decide. It’s easier than you think. It’s really your choice. Make it. Today.

What waits at the end?

What waits at the end?

Ubuntu. A simple little word.

Ubuntu. I am because you are.

Simple. A simple little word. Very simple.

Try to live it or learn it… You can’t.

It just is. Like breathing. No thinking. Just doing. Like breathing.

 

It’s looking at your hands and seeing the blood. The blood of others bombing. And flying. And killing. In your name.

It’s walking in the rain and feeling the tears running. The tears of others suffering. And dying.

It’s looking back and seeing the madness. The history of death and destruction. The hatred that fills our past.

It’s having a hole in your soul while living. The hole left by others you couldn’t get to. Those left behind.

It’s taking that last bite and wondering what are they eating. Those who walk this earth with hunger and pain.

It’s closing your eyes and seeing the pictures of children running with guns in their hands. Children losing innocence before their time.

It’s staring out the window and wondering what they are doing today. Those without a home or a roof.

It’s looking at your loved ones and wondering where they are today. Those who are running for their lives.

It’s lying on your bed and feeling them dying next to you. Those who are sick of diseases we can fight but they can’t. Lying on their make-shift deathbeds.

It’s drinking your coffee and wondering about the hands. The hands of the farmer who worked the field and break his back for scraps.

It’s standing at the cliff looking down and wanting to jump. Because you just can’t take it anymore.

It’s looking at my kids and worry about what lies ahead. And what we leave behind.

It’s looking at the women in Africa and across the world. And seeing the men breaking their bodies and their bones. And the scars we see and the scars we don’t want to see.

It’s staring at the sun not knowing where to go. Too many people and too many places. Too much to face.

It’s getting dressed and staring at the seams. Thinking of the hands who made them and the sweat that goes with that.

It’s standing still and looking around. And seeing my friends being hated. And bigotry smothering us. Lies engulf us.

It’s shouting at heaven and asking why. Why can’t the others shout in peace. Why do they need to die. Alone.

It’s looking in the mirror and seeing the fear. The fear for others because you can’t get there fast enough.

 

Ubuntu. It’s like breathing. It just is. You just do. Believe. Fight. And…

 

It’s looking at your hands and seeing lines that connect. The lines that connect us all. That makes us one. That makes us. In our name.

It’s walking in the rain and feeling the tears running. The tears of seeing others holding hands. And loving.

It’s looking back and seeing the braveness. The history of defying the odds and of sacrifice. And people making the change for the good to happen.

It’s having a hole in your soul while living. The hole slowly filled by others who love you for who you are. And holding your hand. As we reach for those left behind.

It’s taking that last bite and knowing how beautiful it tastes. These fruits given to us by those we can’t see.

It’s closing your eyes and seeing the pictures of children running with a smile on their face. Children being children no matter where they are. Or what they have.

It’s staring out the window and wondering what they are doing today. And know they have love in their hearts and a pride in their soul.

It’s looking at your loved ones and know how lucky you are. For those who love you for who you are.

It’s lying on your bed and feeling them lying next to you. Those who love you and hold you at night. Lying next to you because you share a love.

It’s drinking your coffee and wondering about the hands. The hands of the farmer who worked the field and loved his land.

It’s standing at the cliff looking down and wanting to shout. Shout to the world you love them. Because of the beauty that lies before you.

It’s looking at my kids and and seeing them grow and love. And know hope lies in their hands.

It’s looking at the women in Africa and across the world. And hearing them laughing in the streets and the markets. And knowing the strength in their bones and in their blood. Carrying the world on their backs with a smile.

It’s staring at the sun and feeling it shine on your face. So many beautiful people and beautiful places. Tomorrow is another day. We fight on.

It’s getting dressed and staring at the seams. Thinking of the hands who made them and how warm they feel when you hold them tight.

It’s standing still and looking around. And seeing my friends finding love. And how we will embrace this world with hope.

It’s looking at heaven and saying thank you. Thank you for making me like this. Making me one of us.

It’s looking in the mirror and seeing the faces. The faces of others smiling at me because they know I am. There. With them. Because I am them.

 

Ubuntu…

So simple.

I am because you are.

 

It’s like breathing. I am because you are. I am. Because you are.

 

Let’s breathe. Let’s be. Let it be.

Just breathe and hold...

Just breathe and hold...

____________________

The world is a puzzling place. The answers aren’t that easy to get. And the questions don’t get any easier. But it doesn’t mean we can’t keep on looking and asking. Sometimes I look in the mirror and stare at myself and this little world of ours. And then I write. You can find more of these thoughts at a page I created that captures links to all of these stories in one place. Go to the ”What Are We Doing?” page for these stories. No, it won’t bring you back to this post – it is a seperate page.

Every single day we walk past them. The shadow people. The people we don’t see because we don’t want to see. They are the great unseen. The great unclean. No meaning in a world moving at 1,000 mph. To slow to keep up. They fell off the train and never got back on. Because we are moving too fast to stop and pick them up. And we just couldn’t be bothered either.

Like characters from a George A. Romero movie. Zombies. Dead on their feet. But not like a George A. Romero movie. Because we still go and watch his zombies. We don’t watch these shadow people anymore. We make a point of looking past them. Over them. Through them. Those beggars hanging out at the edges of our vision. Just far enough for us to ignore. But just close enough to be in our way.

Those beggars in our way. Not just in the way of our commute to work or stroll through town. No. In the way of how we want to see life and live life. We try everything to ignore them. We wear our sunglasses. We look across the street as if we are looking for something. We dig into our pockets as if trying to find something. We walk with the best pensive look we can come up with. We make as if we are talking on our mobile phones. Anything. Anything to make them disappear. Or not look at us.

We want them to be invisible. We want to be invincible. They remind us of how close we are to being nothing. Just one unlucky break away from falling of our speeding train. We try hard to make them go away. To make them invisible. Like glass. But they are not glass. They are a mirror. Holding it up for us to see. To see where we could be as individuals. And to show us where we are as a community.

We will do anything to not help them out. Because it is “bad” for them. It doesn’t “help” them get out of their “situation”. So say the experts. Thanks Laura from A smoother pebble for reminding me that maybe we walk past these shadows a little too fast. That maybe we don’t stop often enough to just look them in the eyes and remind them and us we are not so different from each other. That kindness does not always have to have strings attached. That people are just people. No matter what they look like or what they smell like.

Maybe I should stop and give them a dollar. Or maybe I should stop and give them a coffee or sandwich. Maybe I should stop and ask them how they are. Just look them in the eyes and let them know it is okay. That I care more than a dollar. More than money. I care about them. And their lives. A care the same way I care about others. No more, but no less. And maybe I will shake their hands and wave goodbye, have a nice day – and mean it. Remind them and remind me that they are not invisible. They are not shadows. They are invincible. Like me. And they are imperfect and weak. Like me.

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