Things fell apart: We would have been better off without Zille’s infatuation (colonialism)

ziller-cooking.jpg

“For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.” (Helen Zille, circa 2017)

 

I ordinarily do not have the energy, inclination or desire to engage with Helen Zille’s utterances. It is a futile exercise. She lacks the insight to understand the deleterious effects of her ideological leanings.

 

Even here I intend not to dwell on her comments (Zille elaborated her vitriol in this Daily Maverick piece) instead I make a critique of some of the responses to her comments.

 

I am rather disturbed by an array of commentators who are, on the surface chastising Helen whilst, implicitly accepting as immovable truth the core thesis of her tweet rant.

 

My reading of her core claim is that colonialism brought about industrial (roads, water infrastructure) and social order (judiciary) that are inherently better than what prevailed and that could not have been possibly developed by Africans in the absence of the arrival of the eternal visitors from the Netherlands and England.

 

I do not accept this assertion. I find it telling that so many people can accept it with virtually no evidence and little interrogation. In an imperfect analogy it is, for me, similar to person A raping person “B” and then telling her that he has given her the best debut sexual experience possible. “B” cannot now have a chance to have a sexual debut of her choice and thus there is no way of disproving the callous assertion but that is hardly proof of A’s statement.

 

There is absolutely no reason to assume that Africa would have under-developed (whatever that means) without the painful interaction with the hostage takers that were the colonizers.

 

It is regrettable that we have never bothered to study the psychopathic drive that made some men want to travel the entire breadth of the globe terrorizing others, voraciously acquiring senseless amounts of wealth whilst inducing intractable levels of trauma and suffering.

 

The intellectual pollution spread by colonial and apartheid masterminds and their apologists requires critical thinkers to debunk and demystify the fallacious remarks that are easily accepted as given truths. For this purpose I challenge you to read any or all of the following: Chinua Achebe (whose title I have altered), Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Decolonisation of the mind, Bantu Stephen Biko’s I write what I like, Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the oppressed, Thabo Myuyelwa Mbeki’s speeches on the African Renaissance, Na’im Akbar’s papers in African Psychology, the seminal Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B Du Bois…

 

Biko in particular left African folk with the arduous task of gifting the world with a more humane face. A commendable aspirational dictate that is made the more difficult by the world’s continued perception of Africa as not being a worthy student never mind a suitable teacher. What then can Africans do if the world is not a willing learner?

 

 

 

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Should #FeesMustFall fall? A comment on violent protests

South Africa is a violent country steeped in a violent history and students are merely doing things the way that things are done here.

 

The fallacious notion that students may protest but only do so peacefully is redundant and fantastical.

 

Let me issue the customary condemnation of violence. Violence is wrong, it begets more violence, and it should pre-empted, discouraged and dealt with.

 

Students or alumni will tell you that the matters raised by students, be it fees, residence related disgruntlement or calls for decolonizing the curricula and academic spaces, never invoke so much spark as to attract the participation of a majority of students. If a university has 20 000 students it is hardly ever the case that 10 000 +1 are ready to sing “Iyoooo Solomon” and get their voices heard.

 

The general course of events are such that a concerned group of students protest and as a means of getting their voice heard the remonstration includes a disruption of normal academic activity. Satyagraha campaigns do not fare well; this we know because students have been protesting against unaffordable fees and lack of residence spaces long before the Must Fall movement. Most of these fairly peaceful protests failed to revolutionize the status quo. Universities are enormous, if you quietly protest in some corner no one will know. More pressingly, everyone stands to benefit from the implementation of the demands of students insofar as a decolonized and accessible university programme is concerned. As a certain vice chancellor recently made note at a Golf Day event, the 1st degree has replaced the matric certificate as the mandatory qualification for job entrants. This throws out the “university is a privilege” claptrap.

 

An oft made comment, that is usually the epitome of lazy thinking, says that students must use other means, discussion with management, to get their demands heard. This comment insults the intelligence of students. As is the case with labour strikes, and, to a large extent, service delivery protests the strike is the last resort. Discussions between students and management or the department of higher education are held on unequal grounds. Students- in whatever form of organization- effectively have to pitch their ideas to the decision-makers as opposed to egalitarian engagement. In fact to date there are decision making structures that decide on student matters without student representation. I am not advocating for a change of the structures, the students do not need my advocacy, I am merely offering a partial rationale for the strikes.

 

For an elucidatory understanding of revolutionary violence I implore you to read Steve Biko, Frantz Fanon, George Orwell and Fatima Meer’s “The (mis)trial of Andrew Zondo”. Should students be conferred with a criminal record for burning car tyres and blocking university entrances? No! What if a person burns a library, lecture hall or a residence? Yes, they must be charged! Same goes for physical harm of fellow students, lecturers, and people’s cars.

 

Regrettably there will be casualties of war. Sadists from student and security set-ups will use the protest as a cover for pursuing their anti-social urges. Some will suffer 3rd degree burns in their pursuit of their 1st degrees but history will judge the #FeesMustFall students kindly.Fees-Must-Fall.jpg

Unemployment: Rand Deficiency Traumatic Reality Disorder

Last word

Allow me to begin with a conclusion. To the employed people: Be kind. Unemployment, like acquired disability, happens. If you have nothing positive to say keep your thoughts to yourself. Most people who are actively job-seeking despise their situation of dependency. Do not aggravate their pain.

 

To those seeking an income generating activity, reading inane blog posts won’t help you find a job, I am kidding. Edit that CV: delete the claptrap about your excellent health and being a prefect in Grade 7. Keep hustling, do voluntary work, study further, network voraciously and when you are on the verge of giving up pretend you are one application away from getting that job or business break. Pray if you must but ease up on the donations at church, God should understand. Good luck! Do not tell me you do not believe in luck. Your day will come, or as they say in Thohoyandou Lidoda duvha. Stay in your lane and wait for the highway to merge into a freeway…

 

Optimism of the early days

There is something about the infancy stages of unemployment that spawns unbridled optimism. You have the recent graduate or newly retrenched person making plans for the next month, “when I get a job I will… ”. Some will even borrow money using the job, which they imagine to be on the horizon, as collateral. Lend it to the person at your own risk. One source said it takes a year, on average, for a graduate to get a job; this disadvantageously becomes 18 months if the graduate is black.  Another study said it took an average of 7 months for university graduates to get hired, with Humanities students majoring in the arts remaining unemployed for longer than their other university counterparts (Mncayi, 2016). I only skim read 2 sources. I am gainfully employed, I did not have the time to indulge.

 

Levels of patience vary but without fail the fluorescent optimism dims, replaced by a gale threatened candlelight. When you have been looking for a job, or a business break, for months or years on end you can’t help but doubt your prospects. Self doubt leads to a depreciation of self-esteem (ironically lessening your employability at interviews/pitches). At this juncture social evils like gambling and substance abuse become appealing. Charlatans and money-making schemers suddenly become your best friends. Resist!

 

Television etiquette

If you know what is good for you will accept the following:

As an unemployed compatriot my television viewing times are during office hours. I can watch TV in the evenings but I do not have remote control privileges. I cannot have favourite shows during prime time (evenings). I can watch TV when the worker bees have gone to bed but this is in defiance of the principle of “altruistic expenditure of financial resources that I do not contribute towards”. Watching TV late at night is a waste of electricity.

 

Chores and food

Be proactive. To avoid being asked if you are adhesively attached to the sofa make sure you do your part in the house upkeep, more importantly ensure you are seen doing chores.

 

Do not just sweep the house. Time it such that you lower the dustpan as the first worker will be walking in from a long, productive day at the office. Otherwise the person may incredulously pick up the broom and sweep the house (read curse you for doing nothing the whole day) thus rubbishing and nullifying your efforts.

 

A woman who is unemployed automatically becomes the maid, nanny & cook. Most of us do not protest this. It is the patriarchal norm. We go with the wave, enjoy the readymade warm meals and cleanliness of the homestead. Unfortunately the reverse also applies. An unemployed male in his 20s- 30s is also expected to moonlight as a maid-cum-cook. If you do not cook for 1 afternoon you hear the murmurs “besekunzima nokubeka amanzi ophuthu nje, umuntu ezineke ku sofa usuku lonke”. You opted to lie on the sofa the whole day and did not even boil water for phuthu.

 

Cereal is out of bounds.  It belongeth to the school-going children (and working adults who may need an easy-to-make breakfast). Pap/porridge is your loyal friend, cue the lemon juice.

 

Woe unto you if you have a beer or two when you do a piece job for a paying neighbour (most won’t pay you in cash). “He couldn’t even buy bread. He doesn’t even know how much it costs”.

 

21 Questions

You can’t even take a bath and dress presentably without being asked Uyaphi? Where are you going?  Are you posting curriculum vitaes? Did you see that you friend bought a car? Are you praying about your situation?

 

Unappreciated

Generally speaking gender and age are two of the factors that determine one’s ascribed power in the family unit. Head of the house and you think of a _ _ _. Heir status is usually reserved for the eldest _ _ _. You get my drift.

 

Unemployment has the power to change this. When you are unemployed you risk losing that status. Suddenly decisions that should be made with your input are discussed in your absence. The advice of younger, moneyed, siblings is sought- including suggestions on how to deal with your ‘unemployment situation’. This becomes awkward for all and sundry.

 

Camouflage: Do not draw attention to yourself

Desist from expensive habits. You can jog and lift weights but do not go to the gym.

 

Do not even think about playing Pokémon Go! “Unama bundles uwathathaphi”? “Where did you get the money for data bundles”? Even in that augmented reality you must be an unemployed somebody with a CV in hand chasing a job opportunity.

 

The knicker dilemma

Parents, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins may help you out where clothing is concerned. Emphasis on ‘help out’ as opposed to buy you clothes. When you start to resemble the nyaope/whoonga boys (it is always boys regardless of the person’s age or sex): shirts with no buttons, torn jeans that are literally hanging by a single thread and white clothes that now look cream brown, you may earn a pity shopping spree at the buyer’s chosen store.  The dilemma arises at this point, do you casually add underwear to the items you point out to the buyer or do you let pride get in the way. Remember everything you do may be held against you. The next time you get a verbal drubbing your purchase may lead to a reminder of how you have everything bought for you right down to your undergarments. To kill a man’s pride suddenly becomes more than just a title of an anthology of short stories.

 

Introduction

There is nothing wrong with being unemployed; except when it is for perpetually long periods of time. Time spent unemployed should be like time spent in public toilets, brisk, unavoidable and pedagogic.

 

Job experience

Aziwe #FeesMustFall

“Inkunzi isematholeni”. Lamazwi aqukethe okuningi uma ulandela okwenzeka eNingizimu Afrika namuhla.

Intsha idlala izidakamizwa kanye nezifo ezingalapheki. Ikati lilele eziko. Imisebenzi ayikho. Abantu abanawo amakhono okuzisebenza. Abanye baziphilisa ngamasenti akhishwa uhulumeni ngenhloso yokulekelela abazali bezingane. Ukuba umuntu onsundu kusayichilo njengoba kwakunjalo ngo-1994.

Amazwi eqhawe lomzabalazo u-Solomon Mahlangu, ebhekwe isigwebo sentambo, athi akanavalo ngesigwebo abekwe sona ngoba uyazi ukuthi igazi lakhe lizoba umanyolo ozokhulisa isihlahla sempumelelo. Iqhawe lentsha elabulawa ngamaphoyisa ngonyaka wa-1977, u-Bantu Steve Biko, uthi esikhathini sempumelelo wonke umuntu uyoba nendawo yakhe yokukhululeka, atanase, athokoziswe izithelo zalesihlahla umfoka Mahlangu akhuluma ngaso. Abafundi abasema nyuvesi kulonyaka bathi leyo mpumelelo abayazi! Ayikafiki! Basayizingela! Bazoyithola ngenkani!

 Ukhongolose unguhulumeni

Ukhongolose uwine ukhetho lokugcina ngomkhankaso obunobuciko, kepha isiqubulo ebesithi “We have a good story to tell” sesiphenduka ihlaya. Ukwenza abantu izilima ukuthi uthi uphethe mese utshele abafundi ukuthi uvumelana nesifiso sabo kepha ungenzi isiqiniseko sokuthi kwenzeke lokhu okucelwayo. Uhulumeni utshele abaphathi bezikhungo zemfundo ukuthi akwande inani labafundi. Izikhungo zikwenzile lokhu. Kodwa uhulumeni uyayinciphisa imali ayifaka emanyuvesi. Kuyacaca ke ukuthi inhloso ukuthi abafundi bangaqedi noma kwehle uhlobo noma ubuchule bemfundo. Imfundo yamabanga aphela kumatikuletsheni ifile. Uma isimo siqhubeka kuyacaca ukuthi iziqu zemfundo ephakeme zingagcina sezi yizeleze njenge sitifiketi sikamatikuletsheni.

Ukhongolose kumele wazi ukuthi uma ungakugobeli lokhu okucelwa abafundi, ukuthi imali ingakhuphuki ngonyaka ozayo, bavumelana nokuthi isizwe esimnyama siqhubeke nokuhlupheka okungasoze kwaphela. Isiphelile manje iminyaka emihlanu abafundi ezikhungweni ezahlukene beteleka unyaka nonyaka ngalo loludaba lokubiza kwemfundo. Isikhathi sokubaziba sesiphelile.

Abafundi bakhombisa ubuholi

Abahlaziyi bezombusazwe sekunesikhathi manje bekhononda ngokungabi khona kwabaholi ongazishaya isifuba ngabo. Uma ucabanga abaholi esinabo uvele uphelelwe amandla, awucabange laba nje: umongameli u-Jacob Zuma, mam’ Angie Motshekga, Faith Muthambi, Gugile Nkwinti, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Dina Pule, Ellen Tshabalala, Thulas Nxesi, Nathi Mthethwa neduku lakhe, Tina Joemat Peterson. Ngingazithola ngihlaselwa iNyala ne White star uma ngibabiza ngempuphu. Kuthi khala uma ubuka ubungane nobuphukuphuku obuqhubeka ephalamende.

Isenzo sabafundi abasemanyuvesi ahlukahlukene sikhombise ubuhlakani nobuholi esingasabazi. Ngesikhathi esincane nje abafundi bakwazila ukudonsa amehlo eningi ngendlela ezokwenza ukuthi sibheke ukubiza kwemfundo ephakeme, sibheke ubandlululo olusaqhubeka kwezinye zalezikhungo, siphinde sibukisise isimo sabantu abaqashiwe kulezikhungo zemfundo abasebenza kanzima kepha behhola amakinati.

Akukho nokumsabisa uBlade Nzimande ngokuthi #BladeMustFall ngoba uyambona nje ukuthi kukhona okuthize okudlula entanyeni okukade kwaqeda ngaye, sekuzisalele igobonga nje.

Okuhle ngokuteleka kwabafundi

Abafundi bakhombise umunyano oluyisimanga. Uma ubuholi babafundi base UKZN-Edgewood bungeneme, obase Westville buyangenelela. Umakuqala i-Wits i-UCT iyalandela, kuthi kusenjalo ubone i-DUT, NMMU, WSU, Rhodes kanjalo… Lokhu kuyinkomba yokuhlangana nokuhlela esingasakwazi selokho kwabakhona i-ANC ya-Mbeki ne-ANC ya-Zuma zibhekene emahlweni. Belwa bodwa. Bengalwi nobubha kanye nezinselelo esibhekene nazo njengezwe. Laba bafundi basebenza ndawonye noma omunye echeme ne-EFF omunye ewukhongolose kanjalo kanjalo. Kuyancomeka lokhu, amagalelo abo mahle. Bakhombisa ubuhlakani ngokuya ephalamende, eLuthuli House kanye nase-Union Buildings ngoba amavoti ethu aphelela khona.

Abafundi bakhombisa isimilo nobuhlakani ngokuteleka okungenadlame. Kodwa ke nalapho udlame luba khona kumele kucace ukuthi uma isimo sesifike kwa ngqingetshe angeke abafundi batshelwe ukuthi basebenzise eziphi izindlela zokuveza ukunganeliseki. Lokhu akuhlukile ekutheni i-PAC kanye ne-ANC kwadingeka ukuthi baqeqesha amasosha (POQO, Umkhonto weSizwe) ngaphambi kokuthi kuxoxiswana nezidlamlilo zamabhunu ezaziphethe.

Abafundi bakhombisa ukuqonda ukuthi impi ayikho mayelana nezimali nje kuphela kodwa kusanenselelo yokulwa nobandlulo kanye nefa lengcindezelo yeminyaka. Okunye okungihlabe umxhwele ukubona abafundi abangaswele  benyathela eduze kwalabo abangazithola bevaleleka ngaphandle uma izimali ezivele zibiza itshe ziphinde zikhuphuka.

Uma sibona abafundi bekhuzana bodwa, becosha amaphepha emuva kokuteleka, begqugquzelana ngokuthi bateleke emini mese bafunde ebusuku  sibona ngokusobala ukuthi banenhloso.

Isixazululo

Abezindaba babethi lapho uma bebuza izinsika zomzabalazo esibala kuzo u-Rolihlahla Mandela kanye no-Bantu Biko ukuthi abantu abamnyama banganikwa kanjani ivoti noma umhlaba ekubeni bengafundile? Lezihlabani ziphendule ngelithi:

Awudingi ukuthi ufunde ukuze ukwazi ukuzikhethela noma ube nomhlaba wokuziphilisa. Lendlela yokuphendula yayingenhlosi yokwenza kube sobala ukuthi akungadidaniswa izinto. Imfundo ibaluleke ngendlela eyisimanga kepha kwakungasona isizathu esiqavile sokuthi abantu abansundu ababambiswe iwa kuze kuyovalwa leso. Ngendlela ethi mayifane ke nginombono wokuthi ubuholi abudlule ekucasheni ngokuthi imali ayikho yokufeza izifiso zabafundi. Ubuholi abuhole bayeke ukuhona. Umsebenzi wabo ukuxazulula indaba yokuthi imali izoqhamukaphi. Kungcono ukuthi abafundi batelekele imali yokufunda kunoku khangezela imali yeqolo. Uma sikwazi ukukhipha izinkulungwanze zezigidi silungiselela indebe yomhlaba, sisafuna nokusingatha ama-Commonwealth games akungadlalwa ngathi kuthiwe imali ayikho. Kumele wonke umfundi ophasa kahle akwazi ukuthi afunde imfundo ephakeme!

Viva #FeesMustFall Viva!

#ProtestAndPass

#0%

#AwunyiPerhaps

South Africa’s xenophobia 2.0 : An indictment

I am embarrassed to be a South African. Writing this is actually uncomfortable. Nonetheless it may help to clarify my mind and counter some of the cognitive dissonance that the latest xenophobic attacks bring.

I do not know what to say to my friends, fellow students and acquaintances from Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and other parts of this continent. I have no satisfactory responses to inquiries from friends in parts of the Diaspora or South African citizens who are currently out of the country. Whilst all sane South Africans condemn the violence I sense a sense of helplessness. There are a few extremists who go to the extent of beating, looting and shaming fellow Africans who happen to be born further up the continent. These extremists, it must be said, share views that are not as negligible as we would like to believe. That said there are many South Africans who are embarrassed, disgusted, disappointed, dejected and infuriated. Most troubling however is the sense of paralysis that has been induced onto those Africans who do not have the sociopathic urge to kill or steal from people on the basis that they were not born in Afrique du Sud.

Leadership

It is a long established fact that South Africa has a dearth of leadership, the death happened in 2007, the funeral was in Polokwane, the mourning period seems infinite. From the crises at Eskom, Post office, schools, municipalities to the national assembly and the presidency the common factor is a (mis)leadership of gargantuan proportions.  When people were massacring each other in KZN, before the 1994 elections, Nelson Mandela would visit the sites of death and clearly articulate his (and his peers) disapproval and pave a way forward. The current miscreants operate on the level of denial. The current violence has been festering for years, in fact it never disappeared following the 2007/8 attacks. Unfortunately our elected leaders deny, deny and deny again. The tired official line from government blames the attacks on criminal elements. This is a rubbish argument that exposes shoddy thinking. If the criminal elements only target Africans from Somalia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania and not South Africans or people from other continents than these elements are afrophobic/xenophobic first and criminal second.

The leadership is overwhelmingly underwhelming. The lethargically minded Zulu king, who has less relevance than a heater salesman in hell, spewed vitriolic comments that were the direct precipitant of the current violence in KZN. I heard from South Africans caught in the crossfire on Tuesday, 14 April 2015, that the group of South African extremists were singing songs that suggested they were defending the king “sebethinta u-Zulu…”. None of the leaders in government, who give a sizeable portion of our taxes to Zwelithini, have come out and condemned his moronic remarks. Senzo Mchunu, KZN premier’s, pathetic attempt to deflect a question on this matter was disappointing to watch.

Perhaps most disturbing in the leadership front is that the ANC liberators who used to be accommodated in Tanzania, Zim, Zambia and elsewhere on the continent are either treating this matter with nonchalance or worse still making statements that add fuel to the blazing fire. Ministers Nomvula  Mokonyane and Lindiwe Zulu have made questionable and somewhat ominious statements in recent months. The much critiqued VISA restrictions imposed by Gigaba’s home affairs ministry have proven to add to frustrations for students and workers from other parts of the continent. It marks the complete failure of the African Renaissance vision espoused by leaders like Thomas Sankara and our own Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki. For some students from other parts of Africa entry into South African universities is enabled but they cannot do the practical component of their studies in the republic whilst some candidates apply for jobs and are turned down because jobs are reserved for South Africans. It is depressing to think that the European Union enables a German in Spain to be treated with more of the much touted Ubuntu that a Zimbawean in South Africa.

Conflation of issues

The notion that foreign internationals (this includes people from the Americas, Asia, and Europe etc.) are stealing South Africans’ jobs is a misnomer. In fact if it were true the current attack would be directed at the wrong class of foreign internationals. As a country with a scarcity of skills we import labour for technical, business, education and other professions. The people being attacked are largely not in this group. The attacks are happening in CBDs and townships, not at the JSE or in mine house boardrooms.

Related to the stealing of jobs fallacy is the argument that Somalians, Zimbabweans, Pakistanis, Mozambicans are opening small businesses and running locals out of business by selling on the cheap. This argument makes sense at face value but we must not succumb to lazy thinking. We have an entire ministry for small businesses that is geared towards assisting SOUTH AFRICANS establish and optimise small and medium enterprises. Now if a foreign international, who may or may not have legal authority to be in the country, can outperform a South African who has government support and the advantage of knowing the target market then surely there is a systematic problem.  This points to South Africans having a poor culture of entrepreneurship. A young person who can source funding for a degree/diploma suddenly cannot establish and maintain their own small business, in the field that they studied in? If the issue is ‘unfair competition’, find out where the Somalian traders are sourcing their goods from, if these are not SABS approved then deal with this issue.

I can hypothesise that amongst those small business owners from Zim, Somali or China can keep their prices lower by minimising their costs. For instance I know traders from the aforementioned countries who use the same accommodation for business and living. Additionally they may not wear the most expensive clothing and are advantaged by the fact that they would be denied credit by South African lenders. In any case even if the targeted traders were scheming to run South Africans out of business one would expect us as South Africans to be slightly more imaginative than ‘solving’ this dilemma by looting, burning and killing people with the disdain we reserve for mosquitoes and cockroaches.

Psychosocial implications

Sociology students would be better equipped to explain why our xenophobia is taking on a racial stance. It is almost as if the attacker can only feel better about themselves, and their own despised self image, by finding someone who can be seen to be lesser. A Mozambican with a darker, melanin induced, hue and an accent that is not familiar fits the bill far better that a Greek or Jewish trader.

From a theoretical perspective two concepts come to mind. The psychodynamic concept of displacement is noteworthy. Displacement merely refers to transferring negative feelings from an appropriate object to a less threatening object. Metaphorically it is illustrated in the example of the man who is frustrated by his unreasonable boss, does not react to him/her, goes home and takes out his frustration on the wife. Similarly I hold the belief that people frustrated by lack of job/land prospects instead of confronting themselves, the gatekeepers of the economy and our elected leadership are targeting black foreign internationals with the flimsiest of excuses.

The Contact Hypothesis Theory is also relevant. This theory simply suggests that one way of increasing tolerance (and hopefully acceptance) between different groups is to have them come into non-conflictual contact on equal terms. Unfortunately for those foreign internationals who are in a lower social class such contact is virtually non-existent. I have observed that generally those South Africans who work or study with people from other African countries are more aware of their positive qualities and thus less likely to regurgitate the stereotypes of foreigners as drug peddlers who steal jobs. For example students from Zimbabwe generally have a high work ethic. In fact African students who are the cream of the crop in their countries and have benefitted from a superior education system enrich the university experience for all students. The othering and demonization of Africans legitimizes the racist ideologies of the colonisers who constructed the borders that we have now adopted and are willing to kill for.

Way forward

The sense of paralysis remains yet it cannot, it must not, persist ad infinitum. In the heat of the moment refugee camps are being set up and food, clothing and blanket supplies are needed. Those leaders in government, religious leaders and civil society who have taken a stand against the brutalization of one black by another, one African against another, one human being against another human being must be commended. Leaders need to lead the tackling of associated problems used to excuse our appalling actions be it fixing the education system, creating the conditions for fighting unemployment, tackling the drug problem, controlling porous borders or equipping home affairs and embassies with skilled and compassionate staff. The police, as some have been doing, need to do their job as per their job descriptions. We need to be mindful of what our own constitution says and act in accordance. Matters of intolerance to difference require massive moral and educational attention. Today it is xenophobia, tomorrow it will be homophobia, religious intolerance or some other point of difference. Some efforts are indirect but influential, we insist on importing Justin Bieber’s music and neglect to give airplay to talented African artists thus perpetuating our negative view of our own people and glorifying that which is truly foreign. The current excuse of an education system is successfully creating a generation of uncritical and lazy thinking South Africans who are unemployable by virtue of being unskilled. These individuals are frustrated and they can be swayed in any direction. It’s all good and well when the direction is towards a particular face in the voting booth but an unthinking mob can attack whosoever irks it.

maite

Privilege

The first thing you must know is that it is in the interest of the privileged to not have discussions on privilege. The Oxford dictionary defines privilege as follows:

A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group: education is a right, not a privilege

Needless to say the example is an idealistic notion, but that is a calamity for another day. Implicit in this dictionary definition is that privilege infers a state of being different, but better. Differently stated privilege infers exclusivity, with those who are excluded being the losers. One person’s point of privilege is another’s disadvantage. On one side of the coin is privilege on the other prejudice. Privilege is both an outcome and a maintaining factor of unequal societal relations. Looking at race, gender, sexual orientation and disability this article will attempt to highlight certain characteristics of privilege. The intention is to acknowledge, critique and scrutinize privilege.

 

Race

As recently as 2013 I watched a theatre production titled “The Black Psychiatrist” at a university-based theatre in Durban. I will not make remarks on the actual show. However, the title is of interest. The implicit message here is that psychiatrists are not characteristically black. Racial privilege (the other side of the coin of racial discrimination) is too fresh in the minds of South Africans to be narrated at length. In this regard an isiZulu idiom comes to mind: umenzi uyakhohlwa; umenziwa akakhohlwa. Roughly translated this means the ‘doer’ of wrong easily forgets their actions whilst these actions linger in the minds of the ‘victim’. This adage comes to mind when debates about affirmative action ensue and certain people state “it has been 20 years, when will we ever move on’’? In their book on difference Rosenblum and Travis illustrate how a genetic construction of race would fail dismally as the San and Chinese, Swedes and Xhosas, and Germans and New Guineans share similarities that would have Hitler and Verwoerd toss and turn in their graves. The processes of construction of race and the near impossible efforts of deconstructing this social construction say much about the human race. When it is the Rwandan Hutus versus Tutsis or Nazi Germans versus German Jews the height of the danger of privilege-peddling is vividly illustrated.

 

Gender

Try to have a serious debate on the advantages and disadvantages of polygamy. Now introduce the prospect of polyandry and observe the reaction of the penis-wielding debate participants. The following is an extract from Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Decolinising the mind. The writer describes an extract from his novel Caitaani Mutharabaini (Devil on the Cross) in which seven thieves are competing to be the cleverest thief:

 …For instance there is the case of one robber who has become so wealthy through smuggling that he begins to resent his wealth. Why? Because though he has got all that quantity of money; he has one heart and one life like all the other humans including his victims. But the breakthrough in heart transplants gives him an idea. He has visions of a huge factory for manufacturing spare parts of the human body including extra penises so that a really rich man could buy immortality and leave death as the prerogative of the poor. But he makes a mistake in telling his wife about the vision. She is delighted at the possibility of the wives of the rich, being distinguished from the wives of the poor by their two mouths, two bellies, two or more hearts and two cunts. When I heard her mention two female organs and say that she would be able to have two instead of one, I was horrified. I. told her quite frankly that I would not mind her having two mouths, or two bellies, or multiples of any other organ of the body. But to have two . . . no, no! I told her to forget all that nonsense.

In a nutshell one Sigmund Freud aptly referred to “penis envy”. Men are undoubtedly privileged on the basis of their sex. The fact that men, on average, get paid more than women doing the same job in 2014 solidifies this point.

 

Sexuality

Gay sportsmen make the news as if your choice in romantic partner determines how one pitches, takes a free kick or crouch before they engage in a scrum. If you are heterosexual you are privileged as your choice in romantic partner has no bearing in your getting a promotion, being a prominent member at church or an ambitious politician. One caller once called to remark on how impressed he was by Eusebius Mckaiser’s not being feminine (with the implicit message being Eusebius is different, unlike other gay people who are annoyingly effeminate). Mpho Makola, an Orlando Pirates Football Club player, saw fit to announce that there are no gays in his football team. How does he know this? I do not know? That however is not the point. The fact that it matters indicates that being ‘gay’ falls on the prejudice side of the coin. If, or rather when, Pirates return to losing ways it would not be blamed on poor tactics or shoddy play but it would be blamed on the players being gay.

Disability

For what good reason do we insist on building steps instead of ramps in public spaces? I think it is a result of the arrogance of the physically able. The subtleties and nuances of privilege and prejudice in relation to disability, congenital or acquired, are too deep to elaborate on fully. I once had a research participant who reported how frustrating it was having a cashier completely disregard him by assuming the person pushing the wheelchair would pay. The cashier could have been you, or me. The disabled as a group are unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) assumed to be less able, less smart, incapable of having sexual urges, deserving pity, and are seen to be lesser people. This is the opposite of the ‘halo effect’ privilege enjoyed by some people without a disability who may in reality be a complete waste of oxygen.

 

Disclaimer

The views constructed in the paragraphs above have been constructed through literature, attendance of seminars that explore psychology of difference, lectures on social constructionism and watching stand-up comedy. If they do not sit well with you I refuse to accept any responsibility for your feelings of discomfort, you can put the blame on the literature, seminars, lectures and aforementioned stand-up comedy. Important to note the complexities of privilege, prejudice and discrimination are not dealt with thoroughly in this piece. To illustrate this point briefly consider Oscar Pistorius being born Phindile from KwaThema. Now picture Phindile, a double amputee running in the Olympics. Our statuses of privilege (and prejudice) act and counteract to define who we are. I am a product of my own privileges on the basis of being male and belonging to a social class in which a member can spend time musing on the matters referred to in this article. Are you mindful of your own privileges?

privileges2club-of-privilege

Are you part of the club?

 

Privilege