Give and Take- What are we missing?

The_Giving_Hands_by_therealzack

The idea -and act- of giving is my passion. I have written about it on many of my blogs because it is something I value- not only in myself but in others as well. I believe if one is able to give (read share) then they’ve realized the value of a purpose driven life.

I admire individuals who give effortlessly, selflessly and without expecting a pat on the back. For this reason,it never ceases to amaze me when someone gives to another and broadcasts it to the world. An awkward incident occurred on my birthday last month, that really took me aback and made me realize that…well, we are cut from different cloths sometimes.

As the recipient of a particular gift, it was extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing to have someone announce to people around what they had presented to me on the day. Very unnecessary.

A profound tweet was posted this week: “Don’t eat with someone who is going to brag about feeding you”. It summarizes what I deem to be narcissism in  some people. This is primarily because ideally the onus should be on the recipient to show gratitude in their own manner. In all honesty, making utterances like “I gave someone X amount of money to do YZ” or “I gave Gomo’ XY because blah blah” is very distasteful.

Perhaps that is why Corporate Social Responsibility seems to be a bit of a farce. It is said that, “CSR policy functions as a self-regulatory mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law [and] ethical standards”.

Today CSR is firmly entrenched in many corporates (and it is a good thing, don’t get me wrong) and they can donate a few things to the disadvantaged, take a few snaps and get some publicity out of it. The more the better, so they can see we genuinely have the interests of society at heart.

Perhaps they can be forgiven because they need to do some sort of reporting? Then again, CSR is also linked to business objectives- which means the more a company is seen to be doing good, the more likely it is to get more business: that’s capitalism giving us the middle finger.

I reckon there is a significant difference between giving because one has to- as opposed to one being inclined to. Motivation is a defining factor and ultimately determines whether an act of giving is genuine. Otherwise it is nothing but an attention seeking, point scoring and meaningless gesture.

What does “giving” mean to you? Let me leave you to mull on this with the words of Mother Teresa, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

 

Ode to Bongani “B” Mahlangu

I reckon that sometimes it is necessary to get out of the ordinary scheme of things; to escape normality and do things differently.

Today is one such day for me; an opportunity to pay tribute to a man who believed in me so much that he went to all lengths to make sure that my dreams became reality.

Ours is a relationship that began in 2011 following an article I had written as an unemployed graduate. Through him, I was given the opportunity to go on radio and tell my story. Doors opened as I was also able to gain access to one of the most formidable men in the Coaching fraternity, Mongezi Makhalima- who served as an invaluable life guide.

Both taught me that it’s important to have vision, drive and determination because it makes it easier for people to support you.

We show gratitude in different ways: We cry, salute and smile. Sometimes words escape us and we don’t know how to say “thank you”- not sure if it’s enough at all. I guess the greatest lesson that Bongani has taught me is that the rewards of giving are greater than the rewards of receiving. Giving of your time, resources, networks and knowledge can benefit others ten-fold (even more).

Especially important is that the baton gets passed on and they also give of themselves to others in need. That is how better societies are built!

To Bongani…Words can never be enough to express how proud I am to be associated with you and to learn from you. You did way more than you needed to for a stranger and now you are family. Ndo livhuwa nga maanda!

 

 

He’s Ben 10, What’s Your Superpower?

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So over the weekend I decided to watch the film Their Eyes Were Watching God, an adaptation of the novel by Zora Neale Hurston. Of course for the umpteenth time, but then again a good movie never goes out of style.

So Janie decides to get herself a man twelve years her junior- or rather, he happens to her! I suppose love does come in shapes and sizes, and it’s not quite what we anticipate at times. Obviously, the entire town watches the love affair with great intrigue and expects it to go downhill. After all, she’s the revered mayor’s wife and he just a hood-rat; probably looking for a quick buck.

What I also did was to look at websites catering to the infamous Cougar and found Gerry Ellenon writing candidly on the “10 Rules of Dating a Younger Man”. Ten Rules. I thought how strange it is that such rules exist; more like breeding a Maltese Poodle or something! What a lot of work these Ben 10’s are…“Keep exercising and eating well, do Yoga and meditate”- Be impressed and supportive BUT please- DON’T MOTHER HIM!

Personally, I’ve never encountered as many rules being applicable to Sugar-daddies- if they give them a second thought anyway. The rule of thumb is simple : Just have deep pockets, the rest will follow. So, one gets the sense that the older, more confident woman without much hang-ups is really nothing but a facade.

Anyway, I’ve never understood the allure of a younger man. This is simply because of my bossy nature and knowing how being in that situation would push me to be domineering. Besides this, I’ve always been of the opinion that sex begins in the mind before it wanders off elsewhere.

It’s been scientifically proven that women’s brains mature faster than men’s. Mental stimulation is underrated when in fact it is a significant factor that can determine the longevity of a relationship. Therefore, maturity is non-negotiable.

Playing mum to a full-grown man isn’t all that appealing to yours truly I’m afraid and gets in the way of any advancement toward a “real” relationship.I hear this is sexy in some circles- many more circles than we are aware of these days. Again, a (huge) part of older women’s attraction to younger men is the sex. Nothing makes a cougar’s heart beat faster than virility, abs, energy, enthusiasm; it’s crazy :-)

One cannot deny the huge ego boost that comes from getting the nod from someone younger- it gives you the feeling of relevance and that you haven’t become a fossil- just yet. It provides motivation for one to be more aware of themselves, to groom well etc: Things we should be doing for our own benefit anyway! So, while the heat is bound to fizzle at some point for some; for others it’s a dizzying fairytale- Just ask aus Monkie! ;-)

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Different strokes for different folks, they say.

Age is…

Human-Development

Every Friday in my office we have a culture of asking the “Friday Question” and this could be any question under the sun with the aim of getting to know fellow team members better.

Most of the time the responses from these questions are interesting, funny and give one a sense of having better understanding of the other.

My questions have always been controversial- and this is not because they have anything to do with religion, politics, sexuality or anything that is not permissible in the office. I’ve been told that, well…I’m just too deep. Perhaps I should have been a Psychologist instead?

Anyway, I posed this question this week: “At what age did you become an adult?” Pretty simple question I thought, and if not, it would be a nice way for people to apply their minds. I was mistaken and realized that what we perceive is shaped by where we come from and our experiences. All of that comes together to shape reality as we know it.

I love this quote by Martha Graham, “‘Age’ is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.”

How many times have you looked at some people and thought their age is not in line with their maturity (or lack thereof- read stupid)? How do we then effectively gauge whether someone is mature or not without imposing our beliefs on them? We can’t. Without applying our own experiences and knowledge- and therefore judgement on the actions and behaviour of others, we would probably see the world in monochrome.

I had a conversation with a friend about a family member of his who bought a car that he cannot  maintain despite the fact that he couldn’t even put fuel in it without asking for cash from someone else. It didn’t come as a surprise considering the number of people who live beyond their means.

The saying, “age is nothing but a number” is often used to define and/or justify cross generational relationships, among other things. The phrase also correctly indicates that the crux of maturity lies in discipline, responsibility and one’s ability to respond to their environment appropriately more than it does on actual age. We see immaturity in others when we realize the deficiency in these qualities.

In the same instance adulthood does not necessarily equate maturity. I became an adult at the age of twenty-two when I had my child and even though I had assumed full and unequivocal responsibility of her and my own circumstances, I feel maturity had not quite settled in. This was long after the age of 18 when I could legally drink whatever titillated my taste buds, etc.

In essence, maturity is work in progress. For some it comes very early; for some just in the nick of time and for others  – it just never shows up!

Dear Mageza

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Having been a victim of an unprovoked verbal attack on my way to work this morning, I feel I need to say a few things.

I am not certain, however, that you will read any of this-seeing how things like reading are last on your list of priorities. Again, you say absurd things like “stelling” when you mean “steering wheel” but that’s none of my business since I know better than to ridicule anyone who doesn’t speak the Queen’s language properly.

It’s funny because you like things: You put up bumper stickers all over the place, about overweight people, people not being allowed to doze off in the front seat and lo and behold that people ought to shut up because they don’t have cars- we must see you, we must feel you. And who the hell told you that everyone who takes a taxi doesn’t have a car of their own??

Then again, your narrow-mindedness precedes you! You probably suffer an inadequacy complex, you can frog march people because it gives you some sort of power and that’s the thing-we let you get away with it.

This Mageza rained on yours truly this morning following a request to be dropped off where I get off each and every morning. He maintained that he had asked where everyone was going. “I speak Tswana”, I said- wait, is it a cardinal sin to not speak Zulu in Johannesburg? When did Zulu become our primary national language?It doesn’t end there, he continues his tirade by telling another that if he were to insult me-I would hear. Yes, I heard everything. I maintained a dignified silence. It could have been cowardice or perhaps the realization that no wise person in their right mind should argue with a moron.

Now, dear Mageza, you are uncouth and arrogant- the last word should always be yours. No matter what. You treat commuters like they owe you the world, as if your service is a favour. That’s what you do when you overload a taxi and expect everyone to pay the same price; when your seats are so in ruins one has to hold on for dear life to avoid falling over; when you risk the lives of passengers by skipping traffic lights.

You bask so well in the stereotypes attached to you that you ruin it for other taxi drivers who are decent and treat commuters with respect. I will not offer any remedies for your condition or try to school you- you are a lost cause, completely consumed by the little world you inhabit; complete in waking up and not impacting positively on the world around you. Unfortunately, half of this country depends on the taxi industry to bridge the gap between home and workplace-so you must be chuffed.

I’ll tell you though that customer service and courtesy is not some foreign exercise meant for the corporate world or as you would say “those who know too mush (much)”, they are everywhere you go. Respect is earned and not demanded.

Sincerely,

Gomo’

Witchcraft, The Money-Spinner

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God is BIG business. If you don’t believe me, ask any preacher or prophet or son of God in any charismatic denomination and you’ll have your answer. You can also look no further than Mfonobong Nsehe’s profiling of the Five Richest Pastors in Nigeria . Theirs are religious franchises- think Chris Oyakhilome’s Christ Embassy, David Oyedepo’s Living Water World Outreach Ministry, etc.

The former reminds me of my varsity years when fellow-students had a knack for doing that distinctive hairstyle that looked like an entire jar of gel was used on the hair (to mimic Oyakhilome’s, I suppose) and with the latter I recall the period just before Y2K when some were happy to swap their frilly Sunday skirts for jeans to church.

The age of men and women of the cloth living near-pauper existences seems to be a thing of the past. Nsehe sums it up nicely by writing, “…while the Bible expressly states that salvation is free, at times it comes with a cost; offerings, tithes, gifts to spiritual leaders…”

For me, this brings memories of sitting in church a few months ago with about twenty Rand in my purse-my last money- wondering if it would be enough to pay for the second of two offerings in one service (plus tithe). There were also subtle threats that one’s blessings would be locked up somewhere if tithe is not paid.

On about two occasions that I sat in that church, one couldn’t help but feel as if we’d just switched on to a sales channel as the prophet brought out the big guns: A bottle of ‘holy’ perfume that he endorsed for being able to help one attract a divine partner and any other opportunity one desired. He also brought out a bottle of anointed oil, originally bottled as a combination of olive & other essential oils from Checkers. Yep, that green bottle behind the pew. No less than R 100 a pop.

As the witchcraft trilogy comes to conclusion, I am reminded of Newton’s third Law of motion; for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this instance, the belief in witchcraft, -while for years has filled the coffers of traditional/witch-doctors through individuals who sought to ‘protect’ themselves and/or cause harm to others- also created a gap in the spiritual “market” which continues to be exploited by charismatic evangelists.

Sitting among a group of people during deliverance and hearing some bizarre testimonies, as well as a conversation with a very religious friend of mine proved just how seriously witchcraft is taken. Since I couldn’t point a finger at anyone specific for my apparent ‘misfortune’ (nobody had been killed by my prayers) I had to wonder if witchcraft mechanics fear big city lights; whether they prefer to roam around in the still darkness that characterizes most villages instead.

An article by BBC Africa Live states that witchcraft has, for many years played a role in rebellions, fighting wars and possibly found its way into every nook and cranny of society. This has made the success of charismatic churches an easy one, as they laugh all the way to the bank for commodifying God and identifying a spiritual gap that conventional churches seemingly can’t fill.

Most importantly, the charismatic movement continues to appeal to the need for instant gratification that a lot of people have. For some, money is no issue if they can get their divine partner, marriage, money, or if they can get those haters off their backs. Many are attracted by the idea of attaining things they haven’t worked a day in their lives for; many are desperate for miracles. Are they any different to a person who visits a traditional doctor to achieve the same result? Is it a case of the kettle calling the pot black?

I believe that a lot of people cannot deal with their reality, especially if it turns out to be less than desirable. I also believe that one’s overall perception can be affected by that. Some resort to extreme measures, others look to faith and others remain despondent. In all situations every action has consequences.

It would be naïve for anyone to assume that there aren’t things bigger than us-(good or bad) or people who always stand to gain from others’ misfortune – yet we must always remember that the universe works in our favour once we learn to be the masters of our individual destinies.

In closing, consider this Bible verse: Matthew 7:15

 

Witchcraft, the Scapegoat

Despite the infamous Oscar Pistorius murder trial gradually shifting out of our collective psyche because we’ve just generally grown weary from all the waiting, it has served as an interesting lesson in-among other things- scapegoating.

Having browsed some texts where commentators posed the hypothetical question on what would have been had Oscar been Black; would he get the same kind of media coverage? Would he get a TV channel dedicated to him? Would he even be allowed to undergo psychiatric evaluation as an out-patient? Hell, would he have been able to afford the million bucks bail? I’d have to say that those are interesting but not particularly useful questions.

It has been rather intriguing how Pistorius has shifted the blame to everyone but himself for some of the events that have occurred in his life; from estranged friends, to the burglar in the toilet and his hand (God forbid it has a mind of its own!) for pulling the trigger. Never himself. Still, one can’t help but wonder whether a black Pistorius would have at least one more avenue to exploit. Perhaps he would believe in a third force, supernatural elements? Would he also blame witchcraft for his ‘misfortune’? Who knows!

Dwight D. Elsenhauser once said, “The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions”. Indeed it is easier for most people to shift blame to someone/thing else when backed up against a corner or when the heat gets turned up. While the assumption of responsibility forces one to take a hard look in the mirror and to confront the ugly truth, scapegoating on the other hand lends a comfortable cushion that allows the user convenient ignorance and denialism.

Human beings are interesting creatures, we love taking responsibility for all the good things that occur in our lives but rarely do the same with the undesirable, bad stuff. My last post discussed how deeply entrenched witchcraft belief is in our society (and in many other African countries as well). If you’ve been following the Farlam Commission into the Marikana massacre of 2012 you would have heard Mr “X”’s testimony about the extent to which supernatural belief played a role in the occurrence of gruesome and sadistic rituals carried out by miners in the run-up to the tragedy.

Not only did those beliefs prove fatal for security guards and policemen killed before, but ultimately for the miners themselves in believing they were invincible- a double-edged sword. There are many reasons why people believe in witchcraft, if we define witchcraft as acts of evil done purposely with the intent to harm others.

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However, there are two overriding factors that make the top of the list, that is, one is either successful or not. Success defined in terms of material, the reverence of community members, social status, etc. The former will believe that there are people who aren’t happy with that success and therefore will work towards causing harm or reversing this. The latter will believe that their lack of progress in life is a result of some supernatural conspiracy.

I can neither confirm nor deny. However, I can relate a personal story about being taken to a Nigerian prophet known for assisting people with these “things”. I clearly remember the look on my old man’s face as he told us of other-worldly things-stuff beyond us. It was shortly after my cousin dropped by to show us his new car.

There we were, my sister and I, in our mid-twenties (okay, late twenties in my case). Willing and able post-graduates. Unemployed. Stuck. Like hundreds of thousands of other graduates in this country. Somebody was panicking and it wasn’t either of us. I suppose witches were/are working over-time then? Never mind the socio-economic milieu or the level of corruption in our midst, there was something new we could seriously consider as the root and cause of our stagnation. It was someone else; someone close, the prophet said on our first meeting. Great!

Nervous conditions can create fertile ground for suspicion and paranoia, which may prove dangerous for people who are wrongfully accused of committing witchcraft. In the article “Victims of witch-hunts in South Africa are ignored, DamonLeff writes, “South Africa faces a growing refugee crisis as many victims of witchcraft accusation who survive assault are forcibly expelled from their communities by community leaders, traditional leaders and traditional healers, sometimes after being tried in traditional courts and found guilty through divination alone…

It is during the state of panic that a man’s character is revealed. When faced with the option of fight or flight, a lot of people choose the latter; which means we do not get the opportunity to explore the depth of our resilience…

Witchcraft: The Naked Story

I’ve been mulling over the subject of witchcraft for a while now; probably weeks on end. I guess it’s   pretty tough trying to wrap one’s head around things you’ll probably never understand. It’s worse when they are as old as time because, it would seem the more you try to understand the less you know. So, what do you do? Do you stop questioning, or keep pushing the lid? I choose the latter.

As I was sitting on a taxi headed back home one Friday evening next to an elderly woman, her phone rang, playing Umanji’s Moloi. I thought; what a rather odd song to load as a ringtone and…what a coincidence! All of this happening presented me with an uneasy predicament: I wondered whether this old woman really liked the song because of its catchy tune or that she genuinely identified with the content- that perhaps she felt vindicated by the song, somehow.

Umanji, the late South African folklore singer who was born in Zebediela, Limpopo province warns in the song “Witch” against people destroying each other unnecessarily with false assumptions. In this case, it is the idea that the witch is embodied by old; ugly and unkempt women. Conversely, he asserts that it is the college-going bunch that is beautiful and, seemingly harmless, that one must beware of.

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The late 1990s presented South Africa with a wave of witch-hunts, especially in Limpopo. Paging through that tabloid some of us love to hate on any given day gives one the impression that it hasn’t stopped. What’s clear is that the belief in the existence of the supernatural is firmly entrenched in many corners of our country.

Described by Media for Justice as, “a publication notorious for publishing untested rumour and unexamined accusations and allegations regarding the supernatural” Daily Sun is probably (at face value) a newspaper for the guy who’s lazy to read. It is not hard to imagine the guy at the bottom of the food chain having it in hand, whether for the purpose of reading or using it as toilet paper. It takes flak in intellectual conversations, if it even makes it there in the first place. Who in the upwardly mobile department wants to be associated with ‘nonsense’?

The truth is the belief in witchcraft seeps into many spheres. Although predominant in rural areas, its reach is indiscriminate with respect to social or financial status. It goes beyond religious commitment, education or even age. Of course much of the intent of religion is to fight spiritual warfare and therefore acknowledges that evil in its many forms exists side by side with good.

The most recent case in point is that of a senior cabinet reportedly embroiled in a messy divorce with his ex-wife. According to The Times, accusations of witchcraft and/or the “causing of witchcraft practices and rituals to be conducted” in their home were levelled against the respondent.

Now, I’ll have to admit that I’ve laughed off some rather absurd-sounding things like people being able to purchase lightning and other sinister things  destined for unsuspecting victims for as little as fifty bucks from openly public places like taxi ranks.

But some of the stories I have heard among peers and old folk alike can make for some chilling experience and quickly dampen the mood. One person recounted how they witnessed someone stark naked in another’s house in the dead of night. Manala, MJ explains that “The essence of witchcraft and sorcery is the causing of harm to persons or property by invisible means”. So “go tshwarega” is an expression describing a perceived witch being caught in the act, and possibly not being able to flee the scene. It is common belief that witches turn against their own people as opposed to strangers and driven by envy, malice and jealousy.

In all respects it is not easy to gauge the extents to which people can go when they feel that life has dealt them unfair blows in comparison to others. Therefore, it is easy to dismiss the belief in witchcraft as nothing more than unfounded accusations and rumours that could be averted by educating certain groups of people. Unfortunately, the issue runs far deeper and has created other societal challenges like ritual killings for muti and the sale of body parts.

It makes one realise that just because you don’t believe in something doesn’t mean it does not exist. In the same breath, it’s all the more clear that whatever one believes manifests. Such irony…

 

 

 

 

A Step Back In Time

A love letter from Napolean Bonaparte to his love Joséphine de Beauharnais:

 

I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening which we spent yesterday have left my senses in turmoil.

Sweet incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart!

Yielding to the profound feelings which overwhelm me, I draw from your lips, from your heart a love which consumes me with fire?

Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire.

 

Now, I know Valentine’s has passed its sell-by date for this year therefore cheapskates amongst us will have to wait next year to buy fake roses, illustrious mugs and other frivolous novelties. Imagine that; a freakin’ coffee mug in the middle of summer?! Well, that’s just life.

Anyway that’s beside the point. The past week or so has been an interesting one, especially because it gave me a bit of faith that chivalry (and I’m not referring to the wholesale hogwash we have to endure on February 14th) hasn’t kicked the bucket- just yet.

So I recently witnessed an acquaintance receive a stunning bunch of red roses on a crisp Monday morning. We’ll just keep guessing why because these days we are told that nothing’s for mahala (free) but at least two things can be ruled out. It wasn’t Valentine’s and it wasn’t her birthday. So, there is at least one guy out there in the universe who knows his thing. The brother deserves a Bell’s!

As it would occur, I hadn’t the faintest idea the following day would have a surprise in store for moi. Yes. A neatly folded love letter pushed under my door awaited me as I arrived from the office: The kind of letter that would put the likes of monsieur Bonaparte to shame. Hand-written. Check. Cheesy poem. Check. I solemnly swear my intention is not to make fun of anybody, least of all the guy who wrote that (long) note.

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I reckon it’s a special thing to be the recipient of a hand-written, properly thought-out letter in this day and age. I suppose the most probable reason it ended up under my door is because someone didn’t have my digits, otherwise I could have easily received a text to this effect: “I DIG U” –or something similar- in my inbox.

All that cheesy stuff left me rather red in the face. The sort of admiration that drives people to leave notes in strategic places can be sweet but a little…unsettling. It did take me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane when letter writing was still in style. That was way back when one would write the same letter over and over again, ensuring the penmanship was faultless. Perhaps you would sprinkle a little cheap body spray there for added effect, to enhance daydreaming.

It brought back memories of mother scolding me in primary school after she had found a letter from a boy in my dress pocket. Even of a time when another boy, in middle school got his cousin to write me sweet nothings inside a Sanlam card. So priceless.

Susan Tardanico writes that, “as human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication”. More importantly, Tardanico emphasizes that with all the powerful social technologies at our disposal, we are more connected –and potentially more disconnected- than ever before.

And so my response to my new found admirer was a simple, “writing is not old-fashioned”. In fact, it is a breath of fresh air from the hybrid texting that we have comfortably adopted into every sphere of life. Hand-writing is one of those things we take for granted when it could easily tell a story about an individual. It can reveal if they are clumsy, hasty or careful, thoughtful and neat. The only thing we are able to tell is whether someone is lazy or not, determined by whether they’ll type “Um cumn ta C U” or “I am coming to see you”. Then again, we care very little about anything these days!