Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Everything has changed, and nothing has changed...

Quietly planning to restart these rambles. So much to ponder and publish. Watch this space.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Its a Rrrace! I'm wiiinning!!

I can't remember the movie or the actor but it’s a line that used to make me laugh. I think it was a character mocking some eastern accent. But it was hilarious, and he was ridiculous...it was funny cause of some racial under current too I'm sure but that's what humour's about sometimes....Ratrace! That’s it.

This post's not about that. It's about the other Race. The one we're losing. So Cape Town's a mess racially. Not everywhere, not all the time, but often.

Kids in my street don't wave back at first, look at me funny when I run past. The shop owner started off suspicious, barely greeted me. Because I'm white. And not because the kids and the shop owner are all rascist. They just expect whites (I HATE that word...white people...its an adjective I can live with but a label I hate) to behave a certain way. Mostly a bad way. So it's deep prejudice. This city is drowning in it.

Good news is that is falls away quite quickly. People warm up. As we all do. We are all prejudiced and we all make space for exceptions. I want people to get off the high judgement horse a little.

So here in this little blog I want to order some thoughts and make a few arguments about how I think we all work. It ain't no term paper but it's got a thought or six I want to get out from the hangover of the previous post.

Why do this to you all? Because I am sick and tired of ‘Whites’ feeling like victims. It’s crippling us, and its fuelling our own prejudice, and its causing all kinds of unnecessary shit. Sure there are some policies that in the one on one can be down right unfair and racist, sure there are some people who have serious beef with ‘whites’ and spew it across the broad sheets…or pick fights with ‘whites’ in bars….

But that shit has nothing to do with you. Don’t take it so personally. Kick it in the face. Prove its rubbish. Make some friends and some money the hard way and work for it dammit. 9 times out of ten the people with the most beef will be the most prepared to look past their rubbish and get you half way. The problem with most of us, us whites, is that we sit and wine on the 22. We never gonna score and make this place ours or win fans if we’re never in the other half, four five six.
How many white capetonians you think complain and judge the mess of shacks wedged between the highway and the flats but have never driven in to see new houses, new flyovers, new malls, new rugby clubs, new train stations, old restaurants, old markets, thousands of homes……not shacks but homes with families and picture albums and weddings and graduations and savings and the same little lives you winge about…

Stop feeling so god damn sorry for yourselves and so self-righteous in your selective downward spiral doom and gloom rubbish.

Ah. Now I feel better. Let me illustrate how the prejudice works for 'us' with two simple stories. And after you've read them think if you've ever benefitted in the same way. If you have maybe you'll feel less of a victim the few times the prejudice counts against you...

Story One:

I was a White SRC President at Wits and I could often walk the talk. Not because I was so damn brilliant but often because I was white. I could smooth over secretaries, bowl over sport directors and woo old school academics like it was nobodies business. Even with long hair and flip flops I could inspire confidence in two minutes of talking and cement it in two paragraphs of SRC letterhead.

Anything I EVER did as a ‘student leader’ (yuck) at Wits would have taken me twice as long if I was black and four times as long if I had a Northern Sotho accent. Forget that I had a rock and Roll beige ’89 Opel Monza that would take 20 cases of emergency beer for bar stock, or cash from my weekend jobs to bank roll a crisis clean up crew, or contacts at 5fm and Y, or experience organising events in London or a hundred other things that made me good at what I did and many very much because I was white. You with me? You starting to pick up what I’m putting down?

Story Two:

At a party a few years back I ran into an old school mate who’d never done ‘varsity that had just landed a plumb job. He was white and male. The job was an open affirmative action appointment but he’d thrown his name in the hat anyway. His name’s Kirsten, he was mistaken for a girl and made the paper cut. Come interview time it became clear that he was pale and male but by now the MD had seen he was from my school. A school he new to be a good school, a hard, traditional school. He called him in for the interview. He blew everyone’s socks off. He got the job.

The MD wasn’t racist, I’m sure. The MD picked the guy that hit every right button, that oozed the right kind of confidence, that he KNEW in his GUT would get the job done. Am I wrong to say he got the job because he’s white? Yes. But he got the job. And he’s brilliant at it. But he could have been crap. Being white was no guarantee. But the MD’s leap of faith was just that little shorter than had Kirsten been Nomandla from Dobsonville….you feel me?

I’m gonna let you stew on that. Thoughts?

lawns and legends....

I love that so many of my people are living their dreams. I often say I loved Wits, that she was a great place to learn and explore. Its also nice when little things shrink the years and throw in perspective....

I went to Wits 'cause I thought, from London, that it'd be an African university...that it'd push me...and it did. It wasn't African though. Well, not black. I remember those idiotic conversations so well...I still hear them...'but, isn't Wits a black university?' WTF.

Stranger still of course to those idiots who understand so little about themselves and our world 'cause, of course, many think its FAR too white a university. I can feel the hairs raising on reader's backs already. There is a point. Just wait.

So one response I often had was for people not to be stupid....Wits has more white students than Rhodes has students. Full stop. I used to say it as a joke, but I know people who'd find that sad. Very sad. Point is most of my mates at Wits were white, most of my experiences where white experiences. I could've been at UCT, or Stellenbosch ...at least for my first year.

Then I sought some stuff out. Found some people, some parties, some
politics. And I loved it, and hated it. I was also pretty damn good at
the politics precisely because I was white/am white. I got stuff done.
I could talk the talk and walk the walk......

Its funny 'cause I had my toughest little life year there. SRC President. It looks nice on my CV but I don't put it on. After what I thought was a dismal failure of a year I remember being surprised to have people say to me I'd been the best president in years.......mostly because I was white they thought so. They weren't racist. Oh no. And I did get things done. I'm proud of my year now, looking back, I worked f'n hard and for free...to be be free.

Back to the legends. From my time there I have friends who now close 60 Billion Rand deals, do PHD's in New York, win international entrepreneur awards, build houses, own practices, save lives and write columns. My old Wits people
are successful people. The ones that are alive at least. Some aren't.

One, an alive friend, wrote a column this week from New York, in one of our few decent papers. He lamented how few white south african friends he has. And helped illustrate why...

Zuma'd been smoozing in New York last week and hundreds of Saffa's crawled from the subways to see him. I've seen that smooze in full flight. I had the pleasure of having breakfast with JZ and 4 editors in Davos this year. He's slick. And warm and likable and impressive. And I like him less, for being capable of so much and being so dodge.

So after the schmoooooz a crowd chatted. The 'africans' berated his politics, lamented our future....worried and debated...the 'europeans' mocked his accent. Taunted his intelligence. And it made my friend sick.

Makes me think we should be doing so much better. Makes me feel good to be
here trying. Makes me want to become an evangelist and convert bigoted and prejudiced and burdened...and get racial again for a while so we can stop hearing conversations about whites and blacks and educate some people. And so my gorgeous kids, who may be white who knows, may not be too burdened by this bull.

And I'd rather they be burdened then be the so called 'colour blind' of canadians and others where everyones's white, even if they're black.

Anyone still with me?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

long days and nights with the joburg boys

Sometimes its easier to throw your toys and walk against the tide. I had two of my Jozi boys surprise me and hit Slaapstad this weekend. Good to see them. Unfortunately their surprise tactics required that I pick them up at the airport at 23:00 Friday night. Hard to keep things quite if you gotta get the surprisee to get your sorry asseses at the airport midway through his Friday night.....

And it had been a long Friday starting with a team building afternoon that saw circles ran around my still faltering soccer skills. That venue was an old bowling club with bowls green converted to rough pitch and club house to tae kwondo gym. Bizarre. But fun. One skyward shot vaulted the razor fence between pitch and Greenpoint Virgin and very nearly bounced neatly into the open benz convertible cruising by. I'd have loved that.

Not to be out done four other CT venues played their part before we made the airport:

1. Dodgy Kloof bar for jobdowners with Becca sporting her new shoulder scar and Pete pointing out local characters, including John Cleese lookalikes and men with parrots. Hello Polly parrots.

2. Great family pizza restaurant for supper w extras from a Hugh Grant movie and Good Will Hunting; and James swearing excitedly at the call from
the airport two feet away from the 5 year old with her crayons and
paper and the death staring from her mom. Oops.

3. The flash cocktail bar where my shorts and slops where frowned upon in Nigerian.

4. Then Walmer Estate Estate to prep sleeping quarters. Got the notting hill extra to pump the air mattress while I sorted myself out.

Then airport and Joburgers.

Was so good to have those shared history's to banter about and introduce to my local mates. Fun all in all. Had two hours sleep before my soccer tournament in the sun in Athlone but fun. Except the bit where the Big Guy wanted to call his mom at 04:30. Don't ask. I think his mom was as surprised as we were. I've not seen a grown man throw toys like that. Ever.

The baking in Athlone went well and included a run out to Khayelitsha to show our big wigs around. Three months in and I know my way around quite nicely. Could stop and braai Nyama and scoff pap on the sidewalk. Nice to be feeling comfortable.

I'll give this town its summer days. Blazing sun and the darkest green on the mountain as you drive in from the flats. Umi broke through Kloofnek around 15:00 and then drifted to a parking spot half way up the mountain.

You can hear the laughter and humming energy from Clifton 4 from 200m back up the cliff, well before you can see it. Its also so good to have faces I know now, to bump into crowds. From the Hoff directing the 18 year olds to save lives, to the crowds of yuppies under shade. Nice to slowly have a crew building.

Wrapped up with a swim around sunset watching yachts bob from ocean level and I shower and a chat in the Clifton Surf club.

Very cool. The week before I'd lounged with leftest campest afr. crowds and loved it and met a cool jhb couple who'd gotten the cold shoulder at a wedding. Definitely not joburg but not mars either. I like it. And this banter is unlocking some work flow I hope....

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

guns, arms and heartache...

This morning I realised this blogs gone a wondering...it's supposed to be a about places and instead its about head spaces. On my coffee table here in Slaap Stad, I didn't have one in Joburg, lies a copy of the Design Indaba Mag. In it are 10 pages of Jozi worship. I loved it. I nearly cried. Perhaps I will share some with you.

At the same time I'm loving Sleep Town. It's the combined spinning of new work and new places that make it a little hard to settle but that's what I came here looking for. A space for thoughts and perspective, and those are here in spades too.

For my head there's the realization that even as the city and orgs like mine scramble to make things better we're losing the battle, nothing new. Only now I'm starting to get my head back around the bigger picture...

Here's a quote that's fitting: (It's from a paper by a CT resident about theories of change from a cool as hell community development resource centre)

“My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance.

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are;
a gesture waves us on, answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.”

Rainer Maria Rilke


There's heartache but its of the longing that I like. The kind that tugs you forward. Before I puke there's been development of another kind.

I've been lugging it to the rough gym in our office block. Yesterday's 90 minute storm looked like this:

1. Wedged into the little change room between Wesley Snipes, senior and junior, I lace up. Looking hard.

2. I punish the cross trainer thing its setting on stupid high for twenty minutes sweating like Sly in the forest while trying to casually watch Super Sport three. Sports fishing in Limpopo some place. Three huge over weight men, one skinny presenter/poplap and a dam of terrified fish. Not entertaining.

3. Crawl across to the treadmill. Casually key in my weight. 90. The
program. Random Pain. The speed. Blade Runner. And hit it for 20
minutes. The first 10 minutes of incline shifting and mat pounding flew
by cause I was trying to outrun the girl next to me. Turns out she was
a guy.

4. Free weights. There's me in my Rwandan soccer shirt nestled between the four biggest francophone Africans on the PLANET. I powered, strained, swore through exercises with dumbbells that made them chuckle while they threw around weights heavier than me. See 3. Messy.

2 more months of this and I'll be Jean Claude Van Stupid. But younger. And lank more witty and intellectual like...

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

one skewed world

Turns out beer in hand I've trapped all sorts of unsuspecting party goers into stunned submission with too intense convo's about our twisted little world. Just this week victims, though they loved it, included a British engineer doing a masters in power Eskom style, a Zimbo theatre type in the country for a week, a retail mogul turned fashionista and the teller at ABSA, poor bastard.....

Parties are the BEST freaken place to design grand world take overs...we all bitch like hell at them, spew forth grand points of view, berate politicians. Perhaps what
our little democracy needs is a giant cocktail party, long islands on tap. We could all talk, debate, argue and discuss and then scattered around could be flip charts, little video cameras and tape recorders to capture it all.

My party fodder of choice at the moment sprouts forth from an awesome little South African economics book called 'It doesn't have to be like this'. The auntie who wrote it is since departed but, damn, her economics have CHANGED MY WORLD! Margaret Legum, look her up four five six, she's rock and roll.

For so long we've all known that the world's a mess. Somehow its totally normal that the same place that makes billionaires leaves thousands hungry. And I'm not talking communism, I like capitalism. I like being able to sit in flash bars, wear good jeans and play with my 2gig, 5 meg camera phone...well, before it got liberated...

But I'm talking about a few little known facts that are so damn simple but just never occurred to me. Where do the millions come from for example. Most of them come from thin air, made up in debt trades and speculation. Millions of Dollars shunted around the world hardly ever buying anything real, never really creating jobs, so handfuls of people can be millionaires. I will explain more later but this is just a taster.

Fact 1:
Banks create money. Not the government. Less then 20% of the money in our country is made by the gov, actually printed. The rest is electronic and created by banks.

A bank only has to actually have 25% of what it lends in real cash. So for example I put R 5000 cash into my ABSA credit card the other day. ABSA got R 5000 more to invest and play with for absolutely free. When they approved my credit card with R 5000, they didn't go and lend me money they had. They just took a risk, they created my R 5000 out of thin air, and one month later I replace the void with real money, for Jam.
Think about it. Millions of Rands EVERY month that the bank just get for free to play with, to pour into capital markets and 'make' more money out of.

In super simple terms that's what's causing the crisis at the moment...banks 'created' money out of nothing and now as people panic and run on their investments the money just isn't there. The banks fold. And to keep the system stable governments have to bail them out. Wait till you hear where all the US' trillions actually come from, you'll be terrified. Most of it comes from poor countries, reall hard cash sucked up by banks and trade agreements and agribusiness, skimming off every country in the world to feed the debt monster that is the US.

I have more to say but just so you know. This is the stuff that's filling my little head.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Of mountains, Mbeki's and cell phones....

True signs of impending doom are failed cell phone connections on the top of table mountain.

I lugged myself up plaateklip gorge with a 3 ton hang over and 3 year old child on my back to summit grand table mountain around midday on Saturday. It was beautiful with the little chatterbox, daughter of a mate, entertaining fellow climbers all the way up.

The night before I'd been skilfully relieved of my cell phone and wallet mid photo pose and now was trying unsuccesfully to talk to my dad about the beauty of this god awful city viewed from a distance. He was having none of it, talking instead only about impending political doom and how the very fact that our phones kept losing themselves was proof of fools running things. Interesting it was.

Now from those humble attempts at an entertaining weekend I'm back in the office trying to summon a plan to develop the most kick as soccer for development centre ever...fun. Now I'm off to play soccer while my ugly mug banters with Lucas and the furry mascot on the box. Interesting times these.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Testing my bloggability...

beaches as big as rugby fields...

slaapstad's good and evil

I'm filled with snot. Again. What is it about this town? I think every disease infested snot inducing bug gets dragged through Cape Town. Something to do with ocean currents and the lack of ozone....

I've just spent two weeks risking life an limb with malaria and yellow fever and god knows what else and not a scratch. Home for two days and I'm leaking on my mouse pad and sneezing traffic. Fuck. Sorry mom. But its an expresive release of some sort.

On the better side dinner partied it up last night on an 8th floor penthouse a work colleague put to good use to say farewell to another work mate. Poor bastard's heading back to the states for 5 years of med school in his bid to save the world. All these Amercans come to save us. Quite encouraging actually.

I also recommitted myself to reducing the boep. Good news is from my place I can get to a beuatiful mountain path and now its actually still light past three in the afternoon so I can hit it after work. Bad news is its three k's straight freaken up to get onto the path and then the path itself is another 3 k's up. Damn. I must look like I'm running through treacle, though coming down I get to stretch my legs and look a little more athletic in case anyone is actually paying attention to my panting ass...

Bizarely I also tore past a 'bergie making a fire on Tuesday eve and stopped for a chat. Guess where he's from? Tanzania. No kidding. Back to work then.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Bullets from East Africa

Good blogging likes bullets, like good bad news african news stories....here are my Tanzanian Top Ten in no particular order of time or importance:

1. Diving off the pier at high tide with local kids in Stone Town.
2. Getting stung to pieces by jellies while playing 'chicken' with more local kids too far out to sea.
3. Sunset ferry crossing in Dar with 25 cars, 300 people, 14 chickens and 5 life jackets.
4. Oceans of Baobabs.
5. Poms living 'in village'. Now that's a gap year.
6. Ugali (pap), Safi (lekker), Mambo (howzit), poa (sharp), asante (thank you).
7. Zanzibari locals excited to meet a South African filled with stories of their eviction from the 'Europe of Africa'. One guy told me proudly of his happy days in ‘Woodstocki’ and ‘Hullbra’
8. Robert and Sam, my Dar peers and proud as hell of their city and people
9. White beaches broader than rugby pitches
10. And this quote from an ancient Swahili inscription of a drum reserved for leaders as an insignia of power:

"Your action is a reflection of your leadership. So call all the people together, including those who behave differently, for the wise gathers all and satisfies them"