#Spur A thought: Is it too soon or too late for neo-race relations in SA?

Emotional intelligence
noun
  1. the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
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    When we were growing up, it was normal practice for adults other than one’s parents to dish out discipline. If you were in the wrong, you knew there would be repercussions. If this didn’t come in the form of an adult hauling you before your own parents and leaving them to handle you, it would come in the form of them giving you some form of corporal punishment.

    Elders allowed this for two reasons – one, that youngsters saw the consistency of discipline (it doesn’t matter who I am; I’m still your parent) and – Two; to foster a sense of respect. So, there really wasn’t room for manipulation from us kids – we’d learn and never repeat the same mistakes. Therefore, the ideology that it takes a village to raise a child truly applied then and took precedence.

    Of course, our world has evolved immensely since then. Black people aren’t limited to growing up in underdeveloped areas or townships anymore: Our lives have transcended the niche communities with one culture, colour; language and practices.

    In effect, the prerequisite of that evolution was the adoption of a different approach to personal conduct and inter-personal relations. For some individuals, the process of assimilation is easy while others will find themselves in conflict with their environment.

    We’ve somehow grown accustomed to racist slurs everywhere and how they come out during seemingly relaxed moments. Perhaps as a reminder that we are not quite there yet; we haven’t even begun. Each day our level of conflict with our environment is exposed and it isn’t surprising how something like road rage is now our breakfast and dinner. Still, we continue feeding these monsters.

    Having had the opportunity to tap into the viral Spur video, I personally saw a lot of dynamics at play. The first thing that South Africans are generally engineered to sense is the racist aspect -and granted, there usually is an element of that somewhere. Our racist sensors are very sensitive and this is warranted given our historical disposition. However, this has created a grey area where people can literally get away with being just plain awful; where other dynamics at play can be ignored.

    Bestselling co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry describes emotional intelligence as something that affects how we manage behaviour, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is a critical ingredient to self-awareness and self-management. Therefore, people who lack EQ are more likely to lack the ability to navigate through life, assess their environment and respond accordingly, among other things.

    With the two parties at each other’s throats and an audience of children around them, witnessing the insults being hurled back and forth- this scene was disturbing. It is obvious that while the fight was seemingly the result of one child bugging another, this wasn’t about the children anymore.

    With adults behaving in that manner, who needs growing up? The intention is not to sound like a soccer fan watching his team losing a match from his couch and thinking he could have done a better job than the team, coach and referee put together.

    However, as a parent myself there have been incidents in the past where my child has come home crying because of a playground altercation and I would simply say “Sorry, my child but s’ka ntsenya mo dintweng tsa gago.” This is simply to say: Fight your own battles, toughen up. I will choose which battles to fight for you. But it is equally important to bring the children together and get them to apologise to one another. Done. Everyone is happy.

    This is just as applicable if roles are to be reversed – no child needs to be privy to grown-ups fighting or to be subjected to such reckless behaviour. If we kept in mind that the minds of children are like sponges, perhaps we would act differently.

    Their only take-away (pun intended) from this is that one section of society still perceives the other as lacking the basic ability to raise children properly, therefore an instruction to toe the line can be issued with no consultation. Secondly, they’ve learnt that if they are under pressure then self-destruction is the way to go. What would you think would have happened had either of these people reacted differently?

    G*
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It ain’t what they call, it’s what you answer to

W.C Fields once said, “It ain’t what they call, it’s what you answer to” (that matters).

Often, we react defensively to the perceptions that other people harbour about us. The degree of that reaction varies, depending on what we know and feel about ourselves. It also relies heavily on how much influence we think the external world has on our lives in general;how much it matters.

I recently listened to Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful talk on why we should all be feminists. Long overdue, since excerpts of it were incorporated into Beyonce’s Flawless many moons ago. Anyway- I took away two points of discussion from the talk:

Bondage

  • “Feminist” is usually NOT a compliment- not when it emanates from patriarchal doctrine.
  • Feminists are viewed as angry women, who hate bras and men“.

These points resonated with me because earlier this year, I had a social media encounter with someone I know. This was after he posted a Facebook status stating:

“The Feminist: This type of woman can never be pleased by a man and she believes that men are the cause of all pains and sufferings of society. It is her strong belief that women are much more intelligent than men and are capable of doing things “the right way”. You don’t want to waste any time with this type of woman because anything that you do will always be negative to her.”

I only realised later that it was from a viral “article” on the Types of women men need to stay away from (or something to that effect). Then again, people also tend to share things and information that they relate to in some way or the other; information that could covertly or obviously speak to their own belief and value systems.

So, ‘friend put it out there- what I deemed “sexist babble”. Another young man bravely entered the fray and declared, “(Laughs). I love such women. I take them on and shred them to pieces”. The discussion then proceeded to questions from both men on my own stand against what was clearly a flawed view of Feminism.

The men cried foul, “indoctrination!!” , they said. The feminist woman deserves to be alone. Cry the beloved country!

However, the discussion took on an interesting turn- after explaining to the two gentlemen that feminism, in essence, is not male-centric. It is neither focused on the bashing nor emasculation of men but on the political, economic and social emancipation of women. It is about ensuring that women flourish to their full potential and are afforded equal opportunities.

It was highly amusing when it emerged that neither of the men knew what feminism is. One only decided to do an online search when he realised I was steadfast and confident in my argument (which only comes from knowledge), and admitted that he actually didn’t have a clue. He put the cart before the horse, sadly. I’m still waiting to see myself in pieces. I rest my case!

Studies have shown that the participation of women in the economy could raise GDP substantially. The International Monetary Fund recently released a report titled “Women, Work and the Economy”, which highlights the negative impact of gender inequality  on economic growth.

These are the important discussions we ought to be having, so we can create solutions. However, it appears that the patriarchists and chauvinists are too preoccupied with thoughts of being obliterated off the face of the earth by so-called “angry”, morally bankrupt and aloof women who will render them useless.

Instead of adopting a culture of collaboration at every level, there seems to be a fast decline into senseless competition. There’s now them and us. We’ve completely taken our eyes off the ball to engage in mud-slinging. Unfortunately, most of it comes from a misinformed place.

What do I answer to? -Fairness and equality. Merit and excellence. Integrity and responsibility. What do I NOT answer to?- Anything that seeks to pigeonhole me.

G*

The Elephant in the Room: Can We Really Colour-block the Race Issue?

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”– Steven Bantu Biko

Chains

Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed people around me being on the receiving end of racial slurs which could otherwise be interpreted as ignorant, narrow-minded or narcissistic.

Of course, this isn’t news. Discourse on racial discrimination is an on-going part of South Africa’s history and one is constantly confronted with the reality that the rainbow nation is rather a superficial farce,with tensions simmering underneath.

As opposed to the light-hearted manner in which comedians address stereotypes attached to different racial groups, it is especially challenging to take on the same approach if one emanates from circumstances that render them disadvantaged because of the colour of their skin. You cannot simply laugh it off.

I believe this is what informed US First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech delivered before graduates at Tuskegee University-a speech rendered “anti-American” and racist because it encouraged black graduates to rise above their circumstances.

Again, this won’t materialise if the world keeps skirting around burning issues and viewing any act of motivation towards economic, social and political emancipation for historical victims of racial discrimination as an attack on other groups.

It is, and should be a good fight-a fight for what is just and equitable.

Anyway, if I may back-track a little: On one occassion when someone I know was told that…well, she can’t blush because she is black, she took offense. Without going too far in my own opinion about the individual who uttered the words, I was more inclined to take a step back and remember that people don’t GIVE offense. On the contrary, people TAKE offense in response to a range of perceived offensive stimuli.

More importantly, the realization that dawned on me was that as Africans; as so-called black people we remain sensitive about the colour of our skin. This to the point where it seems an insult to be referred as such by anyone from a different racial background. It suggests that not even the black man is comfortable in his own skin because then the natural response would be “of course I am!

Our self-hatred rings even clearer when we attack migrants from the continent (and unwittingly our own compatriots) based on the perception that they are too “dark” to be South Africans. Therefore, most of our lives are spent in a defensive and trust deficient mode.

The reality is that the world’s expectation of the black man is to “deal with it”- and that is, of course paramount if our desire is to start building a positive legacy for future generations. However, it shouldn’t be a rushed process that will allow historical oppressors to feel better about themselves. It is a process that will require (without shame or justification) constant and consistent messaging around positive change.

At the same time we must be wary of allowing a defeatist attitude to fester.

In the words of Steve Biko, “Merely by describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being”.

G*

 

 

 

Shades of Black…

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There exists a hierarchy in society. At the top sits the White man who is perceived as a model of all that is superior and good. For many years, the so-called Coloured communities saw themselves as being inferior to Whites but superior to Africans.

Owing to the conditions of the Apartheid system, many Black people who could pull it off assumed coloured identities to gain access to social liberties that they would otherwise not be able to. The latter distinguishes himself superior to others in his group based on physical, ethnic and (interestingly) on skin complexion. The ones with the darkest complexion sit at the very bottom of this hierarchy.

At least, that is what is highlighted in “Dark Girls”. I recently sat down to watch this eye-opening American documentary about the deep-seated biases against dark skinned Black, as well as Asian women. It opened my eyes to the reality of many women whose pigmentation renders them less favourable candidates in labour markets, relationships; reproduction and to the somewhat deeply entrenched perception that they an attitude problem.

I have been regularly been mistaken for a Coloured person until I spoke my mother tongue, (un)fortunately the absence of a Cape Malay accent betrayed me. One of those occasions was when, as a child, I was shopping with my mother. A Coloured lady approached us and uttered something to me in Afrikaans. I just stared back blankly. I take no pride or pleasure in being what they call a yellow bone. As Steven Biko once wrote, Being black is not a matter of pigmentation, being black is a reflection of a mental attitude”.

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We are so deep in it, and our self-image so severely distorted that bridal parties sing silly songs like, “Tswa’ng tswa’ng tswa’ng le boneng, ngwana o tshwana le leColoured” (Come out and see, the girl looks like (a) coloured).

When Nomasonto aka “Mshoza”Mnisi started bleaching her skin and announced plans to do further work on her nose so she could look White, some of us were really shocked. It was hard to fathom how in this day and age –when we enjoy so many liberties- someone could possibly hate herself so much! Of course it was simpler to dismiss it as a typical tendency of someone who had just discovered money and had no better use for it. If only it were that cut and dried.

Self-image has been distorted in the context of the Black community for centuries and the baton passed on from generation to generation. The popularity of skin-lightening products soared among Black South African women in the 1970s and 1980s* and many of those who coveted lighter shades now have “Dichubaba” (dark blemishes brought on by the dangerous combination of mercury and hydroquinone) to prove it. It remains true that what is on the outside reflects what’s inside and the price paid for a low self-image a hefty one.

According to enca.com, Nigeria tops the list for skin-lightening products, with “nearly 8 out of 10 Nigerian women bleach[ing] their skin.” It is also reported that regardless of how rich a Nigerian woman may be, if she is dark skinned, she is as good as a pauper. In South Africa, you can buy cheap skin-lightening products off a street vendor for less than R15.

On the flip side of the coin, the criminalization, virtual alienation and statutory harassment experienced by dark complexioned men is another bone of contention. It has escalated to a point where the perception is that anyone who is dark skinned can’t be South African. It’s worse if one is using public transport.Just a few weeks ago, the son of former Reserve Bank governor, Tito Mboweni was pulled out of a taxi because of his dark pigmentation and requested to produce a passport.

In a similar incident, my sister and I were travelling to varsity a few years ago from home when our taxi was stopped by police just outside Harties. Seated behind us were two men (Zimbabwean nationals)who sat quietly during the trip. I still remember the sinking feeling as the two were loaded into the police van, as timid as sheep going to the slaughterhouse.

There is a definite mental shift that needs to occur. It will have to happen at every level of this social hierarchy through the rejection of entrenched ideas that one human being possesses superiority over the other for whatever reason. Consequently, superficial and shallow masks put on by those with an inferiority complex will be dismantled.

 

 

X Marks the…

As we look forward to next year’s polls, -what with some of us being first time voters- I can’t help but think how there are more questions than answers when it comes to the current state of South African politics. I can effectively say that I have no clue who I intend to vote for.

This is not because our country is spoilt for choice (that would have been wonderful), but because we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. More so that some would rather keep their right to vote to themselves than vote for any of the political parties campaigning at this point.

This will not deter some of us who intend to vote, even if it comes to an “eenie-minee-mo” situation, something HAS GOT TO GIVE! When Dr. Mamphele Ramphele launched the “political platform” AgangSA earlier this year, there was a lot of certainty on my part about who I would be voting for.

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With her struggle credentials, corporate leadership experience, own money and racial inclusivity, this woman made sense to me. So strong was my conviction that I swore I would become a card-carrying member; hell, even I was surprised. I have never been interested in party politics.

I have to admit, though, that the effervescent euphoria initially felt has all but fizzled. For starters, the strange voyeuristic feel of this political party was problematic, perhaps it’s one of those things that one needs to get used to.

Then again, the Patricia De Lille’s of this world also sported their peachy smiles all over street posters for a long time before that marriage to the DA. It is arguably a one-(wo)man show, with the rest just handling the logistics and sundry bits, preferably, for the middle class citizens of this country. Not really inclusive now, is it?

Let’s not forget the proposal to review BEE policies from its very beneficiary. At least we are familiar with the fact that hypocrisy is by and large a prerequisite for any politician.

When the brain-child of none other than BigBaby aka Julius Malema, EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) was born, I was sceptical. After being stripped naked by the ruling party (with good reason) and the Receiver of Revenue, it wasn’t hard to see why Malema would clutch at straws. So goes his rhetoric about fighting for the “under-dog”; the poor, the disenfranchised, the working class.

Perhaps it is easier to mobilise these groups and to declare shared empathy now that Malema himself has descended from his splendid Sandown mansion’s balcony views. There are many corners of society, particularly the liberal cliques that are quick to shoot this party down as nothing but a get-together of fools with highly romanticized ambitions. Ambitious, it is. So are the radical policies on land reform, nationalisation and expropriation of land. I wouldn’t be so quick to do so, however.

The question is whether the EFF’s policies appear absurd because of Malema’s leadership? Is this vehicle likely to sink simply because of who is in the driver’s seat and not necessarily because society does not recognise the need for such policies to be tested?

I reckon it is naïve to assume that those who have joined (or support) the EFF need to have their heads examined, or that they lack intellectual capacity. It would also be naïve to assume that those with vested interest in maintaining the status quo as far as land ownership is concerned wouldn’t want to fight tooth and nail to keep it that way.

Most importantly, it would be virtually irresponsible to let some individual who has obvious personal scores to settle with the ruling party, and never mind a long trail of greed and rot behind him lead us anywhere. Some of us were born semi-shackled. That is, not quite as politically energetic as the 1976 generation yet not as politically indifferent as the Born-frees’.

I harbour little emotional attachment to the ruling party except for the nagging need to hold them accountable for their actions because they have direct impact on ordinary citizens. Credit can be given where it is due and criticism likewise.

I am more eager than ever to put an X on the ballot paper next year because of the increasingly arrogant stance of the ruling party. It will be more an exercise in getting the chip off their shoulder than one in acknowledging that AgangSA or EFF resonate with me. They have yet to prove their stripes.

Seyantlo: For Better or Worse?

In between the entire hullabaloo that surrounded the so-called “Braai Day” and its shameless upstaging of National Heritage Day, I’d like to humbly give my two cents’ worth…then maybe we can call it a truce? Perhaps if we could all step back for a minute, find our inner selves; regroup and finally take one helluva deep breath we can sort out this whole sordid and completely fruitless exercise, yeah?

Let’s just be grateful that some of you have come out of Heritage Day particularly unscathed by the braai meat you had. On the other hand, perhaps we should congratulate those who boycotted the darn charcoal and pieces of meat- South Africans are quickly tipping the obesity scale. It ain’t pretty, people!

A recent conversation about the age old cross-cousin marriage tradition of the Batswana got me thinking hard about another, more controversial tradition. One cannot help but breathe a sigh of relief that some of us are fortunate enough not to have lived in periods and places that were (are) strict in the observation of such cultural practices.

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In Tabane, E. M.’s research report titled “Influences of Cultural Practices of the Batswana on the Transmission of HIV/AIDS in Botswana” he describes Seyantlo as a “common” practice where a widow is traditionally obliged to marry her brother-in-law and “therefore can only have sex with [him].” It is also stated that this can also occur with a widower. (2004: 189)

The rationale behind this is the same one that underpins many of our traditions. Any African will tell you how important maintaining lineage (tshika) is. This encompasses, primarily, considerations around the welfare of the children as well as the protection of the assets of the deceased. It is also about “keeping it in the family” as lobola doesn’t have to be paid twice for the same person. After doing some digging, I also discovered that in Seyantlo’s purest form, neither the widow nor her brother-in-law will be consulted on the matter. Instead, the families of the two will meet and have an agreement of their own and, in a show of respect for culture, the two people will oblige. My foot!

The first thing that comes to mind is what about love? Somehow the rationale that some people in arranged marriages provide about the possibility of learning to love someone in the course of the union somehow doesn’t make any logical sense to me. Secondly, how narcissistic is our culture sometimes? I say Seyantlo is a cruel joke. In some instances, the very thing that it seeks to promote –family bonds- is the very same thing that it disintegrates; could there be anything worse than being stuck in a loveless and awkward marriage?

The unintended consequences of this evident marriage of convenience include tension and obvious resentment. Extra-marital affairs are culturally sanctioned in any case, and in the event of this happening the (traditional) wife knows better than to ask questions.

I mean, if Thabo were seeing Ntombi and they had long-term plans that included marriage, would he be particularly chuffed that he has to warm his widowed sister-in-law’s bed and play happy family? How does that affect the very children this practice is intended to protect?

In this age, society views Seyantlo with equal scorn and appreciation. While some people say they would take comfort in their sibling stepping in to hold the fort, others view it as completely immoral-something they reckon would be entered into by someone who had already had their sights set on their sibling’s partner.

I do not know much, ke monnye mo dikganyeng, however I do know that it is a burden that I would never carry nor one I would expect my sister to either. I simply want to marry someone I love and that’s that.

With all its seemingly noble intentions, Seyantlo is nevertheless a narrow-minded practice. It ignores the basic tenet that mutual love and respect (neė compliance) are a crucial foundation of any relationship.

Children aren’t only raised on pap and vleis but on witnessing the love and respect being shared between their parents. It’s the only way they can learn self-respect and respect for others. Growing up within a house with someone with the same last name simply is no guarantee for the welfare of children.Shouldn’t we be thinking differently in an era where sexual, physical and emotional abuse emanates from familiar places as it does from strange ones?

 

Pride & Prejudice…

Courtesy of SMJ on Newgrounds...

Courtesy of SMJ on Newgrounds…

I grew up in a township nestled between Lichtenburg and Mahikeng. Old people who say they were brought there by the truck loads call it Mooidorpie. We just called it Itsoseng. At least it wasn’t given one of those derogatory names given to other places in the former Bantustans.

For me, there is no greater indication of the success that was the Bantustan project than the names given to these places. There can be no insult bigger to a group of people than to remove them from their land and then condemn their existence by giving their settlements unsavoury names.

I’m a product of a public schooling system; a product of the men and women who breathed life into us. Perhaps they knew that it is very easy for children in townships to fall through the cracks of the system. I take pride that the foundation they laid allowed me not to over-compensate nor to feel less capable than my cohorts from former model-C’s and private schools.

Not everyone who comes out of the public schooling system can say they did not struggle when they got to varsity.  Some had to face the unnerving challenge of using computers for the very first time at that stage. There can be no denying that individuals are positively or negatively affected by their environment.

Township life was good, but it wasn’t perfect. Random and constant water shortages and electricity cuts were the norm. The dusty streets of Itsoseng are a legend all on their own. What about functional street-lamps? Think again.

The first time I read Malaika Wa Azania’s blog post titled “The black “middle class” and its white tendencies”, I had skimmed through it. I had grasped enough of it to conclude that choice is an integral part of life. It is also enshrined in the Bill of Rights of our constitution.

I was rather pleased that the born-free shared my view on the contentious debate of language, particularly how indigenous South African languages are quickly wilting, especially within our homes. I could relate to the frustration even before I recently learnt how one of my relatives coyly cornered my child in an attempt to suss out her English proficiency. I mean, really?!

Anyway, Malaika describes the black middle class as, “people who live in nice complexes in areas like Midrand and drive nice cars, the comfortable blacks who are relatively financially comfortable without necessarily having control of means of production”. She went further to lambast this group for thinking that they are too posh for the township by suddenly being “afraid to drive [there] at 19h00 because ‘it’s so dangerous’”.

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One cannot ignore the contradictions in Malaika’s thoughts, especially now that she forms part of the EFF (which has highlighted the expropriation of land without compensation as one of its focal policies). Shouldn’t she at least know that the glorification of township life is misguided especially when one envisions a society where the majority of the populace has a stake in the means of production?

There is a problem here. It is clear from Malaika’s blog title that the yardstick used to measure blackness rests in how much one identifies with adversity. Adversity and poverty have become “us” so much that its absence is viewed with suspicion- contempt even.

When business mogul Patrice Motsepe announced that he would be giving away half the dividends of his fortune towards deserving education and other social upliftment initiatives, some in the village of Mmakau where he grew up, took the opportunity to take a swipe at the man for not “doing anything for the community”. Yet again, entitlement rears its ugly head.

Speaking about growing up in the township, winner of season 8 of IdolsSA, Khaya Mthethwa, told a local magazine that, “[The] township strips you of self-importance. You get to see people facing struggles daily but never complaining”. It is not difficult to see why most of us were encouraged to dream big and to see ourselves beyond townships.

How can one possibly take pride in inhabiting a place where an ambulance arrives hours after an emergency call has been logged? When young boys are smoking Nyaope on a street corner or hanging around a bar with their school uniform on during school hours? When the neighbour is chasing his wife around on the street at night? Why do some people reckon that it makes sense for anybody to want to live in sub-standard settlements that were initially engineered to keep some sections of the population away from urban centres?

Townships are also home to people who are well-off. Their children attend affluent schools in the suburbs and they drive German sedans. They love the feel and vibe of the township; the sense of neighbourliness. They know all too well the service delivery challenges in the township. They mingle nicely with their counterparts in Sandton. They know who they are and are comfortable with that. Living in the township is a conscious choice on their part. Should those who feel differently be castigated and branded sell-outs? Me thinks not.

It is disturbing that there still exist some individuals who feel that black people ought to be apologetic about their personal successes; that dues have to be paid to a million people and then some before greater society can put its stamp of approval. There is no clearer indication that the PHD (Pull Her/Him Down) syndrome persists in our societies. It is not limited to some of those who remain in townships who feel that the world owes them; it extends to those who reckon that their enlightened minds warrant them the right to dictate how others fit into the prism of blackness. My foot!

Dear Mr Vundla & Generations et al,

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Seeing as how my fellow compatriots have declared 2013 the year of penning open letters, yours truly has realized that among the “poor” souls like Mrs Msengana, prez JZ, Juju and the Mandelas who have become the target of these letters (deservedly and otherwise)- none is more fitting to become the recipient of the following letter.
 
After a long sabbatical from watching Generations, I made a reluctant comeback to join millions of other dutiful viewers around the country. And I say reluctant because, you see, my brother is a heavy-handed-stubborn-ass motherf&@ker who couldn’t contain his jealousy of the fact that I was enjoying daily doses of The Wild. It would appear that DStv’sMzansi Magic channel is fast becoming a fierce competitor to MzansiFo’ Sho’ with well put together local productions.
 
Anyway, my relationship with The Wild was evidently short-lived. I did not bow down easily though; it took a lot of kicking, hollering and screaming that, “I would rather become the president’s next wife than go back to watching another episode of Generations!!”
 
These days, I willingly flip the channel to watch the ‘soapie’. At this point, three of the TV’s in the house are also switched on to the same. I reckon that’s pretty insane, huh? The other day, my sister protested that we needed to find something else to watch- Pronto! “Poor thing,” I thought. That used to be me all those months ago; look at me now, huh, sissy!
 
Mr Vundla, kind Sir- your production’s brainwashing mechanism should be thoroughly patented. I mean, Bosso ke mang, joe?! Frankly, when one thinks about Generations, they are also compelled to think of a certain political party. Parallels can be clearly drawn between the cunning similarities in the elements of emotional blackmail.
 
Just like that party, yours is the biggest fish in the pond. You hold the title of undisputed king of soap operas in the Southern Hemisphere. Only problem is, in comparison to other lesser dramas, your content lacks substance and real intrigue.
 
We can thus conclude that Generations has become comfortable…a little too comfortable in satiating our minds with…well…nonsense.
 
Since Generations is categorically a ‘soap opera’, Google explains that soap operas “are midday television dramas targeted to women. They are called [such] because originally the shows were sponsored by soap and detergent companies…” Naturally, the viewer profile has evolved to include other people and the share over the soap opera market hotly contested during the early-and towards mid-evening.
 
The end of my sabbatical has given me the impression that either Generations has become a sitcom or that it is bordering on schizophrenic adaptations of people’s overly rigid imaginations, that is, your script writers. Perhaps you will soon throw some Voodoo in there- hot on the heels of the trailblazing Scandal– to make for some “gripping” viewing, neh? 
 
Now let’s also talk about the actual storyline. Well, I have to admit that what you did with Khethiwe and her WTF face was brilliant. Hey, I didn’t see that one coming! I think I actually look forward to that each and every night. However, what you did with Phenyo, who went from being a confident attorney to a panty-whipped fool, was not OK. As a matter of fact, the weave that you put on his wife, Dinny’s head, should be taboo. ‘Same goes for the dozen other weave bobbing heads in there.
 
Let’s not forget those rich Noluntu’s and Senzo’s who live in Morningside or Northcliff going to work out among the arbs in Newtown…really?! Kannete?!
 
I also find the trademark unnatural acting very peculiar. Well, how else can one explain the stiff upper lip (and stiffening of every body part) on male actors, especially? I could be wrong but MelusiYeni once kicked butt on the Emmy Award winning Home Affairs, Sokhulu& Partners and other productions. Now he is…well- a nuisance to watch.
 
Same goes for Ngamla, whose close-ups leave one cringing. ‘Guess that’s you trying to make him look mean. I remember YizoYizo and many local dramas where the man dazzled and showed finesse.
 
If anything, the end of my sabbatical reminds me why I stopped watching Generations in the first place. It reminds me that, personally, I value quality and the attention paid to detail. It reminds me that authenticity in story telling makes the experience worthwhile for the viewer. It reminds me that being in a comfortable space is dangerous; that there is a need for constant re-invention in order to remain relevant. Most importantly, I’m reminded that I have no tolerance for things that insult my intelligence.
 
Similar to that political party, Generations is content in the knowledge that it is safe in this space whether viewers choose to stay on or not. Just drops in the ocean. How long can you trivialize the viewership that so many productions can only dream of?
 
On a parting note, let me leave you with this thought- “Se safeleng, sea tlhola”.
 
Sincerely,
 
Gomo’
 

The Tricky Biznis of Giving…

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On my 26th birthday I received a good dose of karma. All my years of giving ‘bad’ gifts came back to bite me where it hurts the most. And so, as I sat down to unwrap a nicely wrapped package from my mother, I recall having the biggest grin on my face since I had not anticipated any prezzies. And now that it was wrapped up like that?! Whoa!!!

I could feel the water works threatening to erupt, exposing my ultra-sensitive side. Just as well that they didn’t flow before I discovered that my gift was a wall clock. What do they say about not judging a book by its cover? Yikes! Gee, how ironic! What a funny way to remind BigGirlthat she is four years shy of thirty! Tick tick. Tick tock. Mother of me!

With a tinge of disappointment expertly hidden from mom, I politely thanked her for the gift-silently grateful that I had not cried in vain; otherwise I would have embarrassed myself. I would have also been the unfortunate subject of my sixteen year old brother’s mockery forever. Phew!

Thanks to karma, I had flashbacks of all those times I had bought people gifts and all the feedback I got were puzzled looks on their faces. My mother, for one, gave me such when I gave her a book as a gift years ago. I guess it’s a bit of consolation that she eventually learnt to love that book. See? Some gifts are like red wine…yeah?

When I gave my father a pack of socks after a trip to the sea side, I never stuck around long enough to read his reaction. He said a polite, “dankie!” Another incident was when I had bought an ex-boyfriend a mini clay sculpture from a flea market. Not being the one to beat about the bush, he chuckled, stopping only short of asking, “What’s this, sweetness?” When the sculpture fell and broke into pieces the next day- which I still suspect was done on purpose- he looked and sounded relieved, with an awfully bemused twist of his lip; much to my dismay.

In all honesty, there is nothing that gets my palms more sweaty, my pulse racing and my head pounding like buying gifts. It completely frazzles me and makes me look like an anxious junkie every time. ALL.THE. DAMN. TIME. Those who (think they) have it all figured out often brush this whatever-phobia off with the assertion that it can’t be “that bad”. Well, bad gift giving happens to good people as well…and I’m a victim of circumstance.

Theoretically, it’s simple. When you are in tune with what people like then you are most likely to get them gifts they will love and cherish. However, with the many symbolic days on which marketers blackmail us to buy gifts for loved ones, it can simply be overwhelming for those of us who are novices. The less faint hearted aren’t too squeamish to stack cupboards with mugs with “Happy this and that”; mugs that change colour when hot and good grief, even mugs that sing. Then again, who am I to judge? LOL.

I have learnt that one can never go wrong with jewellery, music or even a date (those are, of course, some of the stuff that I personally like. Nudge nudge. Wink wink…hey!) Yet, I’m also of the opinion that perhaps it is better to not give a ‘bad’ gift at running the risk of it not being appreciated. It’s also a bit of an insult to receive a gift that wasn’t well thought out.

So, dear karma, I’m still learning the ropes. Easy does it.

Politics of Beauty & Brains

I normally take things with a pinch of salt. Although I’m one of those overly analytical people who go through things over and over in their minds, I’m very forgiving. Sorry, I sense a contradiction of sorts. So I have come across a lot of characters in my life who have either enhanced it or not. The good part is that the latter do not get to stick around for long. There are people who will always try and be honest, with the best of intentions. Then there are those who will wait until there is an exit point nearby to cowardly say their truth.

So I was recently faced with having to pick my jaw up from the floor in shock as one lady made the insinuation that I owe my professional strides to my looks. She reckoned that her brains and intellect catalysed her achievements. How does one respond to such absurdity, really? In theory, these assertions don’t deserve a second thought. However, I was really pissed! Sure, I was!

I reckon if it were true and I had the intellect of a chicken, then I wouldn’t even be bothered. However, personal insults do come veiled in a range of ways. As an individual who closely guards her intellect, I take offense.  I certainly have no appreciation for assertions that I am more beautiful than I am intelligent, what utter rubbish!

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I thought maybe this isn’t an isolated incident; that it could be the common perception out there. Research shows that appearance is right at the top with other forms of workplace discrimination like gender, race, disability and age. These are of course unacceptable in the South African context and legislation exists to curb such discrimination in the workplace.

In an article titled “Workplace discrimination: Beauty Can be a Beast at Work”, Lisa Johnson Mandell muses that, “It’s hard to feel sorry for pretty girls, since numerous workplace discrimination studies have been done that show they have an edge when it comes to getting hired, promoted, elected and evaluated”. I say the only edge I have, is the one I got at Wits!

Other research suggests that all of this is relative. For example, sales companies could possibly opt for more attractive staff while mechanical ones may perceive attractive individuals as “soft”.

My frustration is echoed in John Feldmann’s article titled, “Keeping up Appearances in Interviews”. He writes, “For those who have enjoyed the advantages of having the tables turned in their favour due to their appearance [are] faced with the frustration of being rewarded for something superficial rather than their ability, qualifications and hard work”.

I’m now convinced that any attempt to defend myself in this regard will prove to be futile. I resolve to let my work do the talking.