#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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When Junk hits the Fan…

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So we woke up on Wednesday morning to the news that South Africa’s annual economic outlook has been downgraded to 0.5%. Just two months ago, the International Monetary Fund “significantly cut SA’s economic growth outlook for this year from 1.3% to 0.7%, the lowest forecast on record so far”.

We’ve learnt to tighten our belts, then make them tighter and it finally looks like we’re well on our way to spilling our guts just by attempting to breathe. While the global outlook hasn’t been entirely rosy, our internal country politics have tempered so much with our economy that it looks like we are heading to where Zimbabwe was ten years ago.

There seems to be no end in sight to our growing misery. Southern Africa has experienced one of the worst droughts in twenty years, pushing food and commodity prices further up. Turn around and witness the rampant unemployment; the floodgates have opened and the system is clogged with both unskilled and highly educated (read over-qualified) individuals. Add to that growing frustration at cadre deployment and looming downgrade to junk status- we’re  one step closer to hell, really.

Anyway, the best thing we could possibly do under these conditions is to remain positive and adapt. Maybe then we might see things from a better perspective.

Adapt is the word. Arguably, one of the things that affects us the most with rising costs is our relationship with food. Unless one has incredibly deep pockets; our natural response is to shop less or to look for cheaper alternatives. This was the basis of a conversation between two women in the bus (yes, we tend to be the loudest and most chatty…and that’s where I get my news :-)) last week.

With the rise of the black middle class in the past two decades has followed an increased level of serious lifestyle related diseases. If the number of people I know opting for a more active and healthy lifestyle is anything to go by, then healthy seems to be the new sexy. As it should be!

So, the two women in the bus were musing about the obvious high cost of food. One of the women’s colleagues had apparently asserted that she wouldn’t recycle cooking oil because “it made her vomit”. What striked me the most was not this assertion, but the reaction to it. “Who does she think she is?” Didn’t she grow up on recycled oil? Like the rest of us?!  By implication, this seemingly health conscious woman is stuck up and should be saving her money before she saves herself.

I can attest that a lot of us are familiar with that one tub of margarine or cup in the fridge designated to receive cooking oil collected from a thousand meals. If things were really bad, the tub would almost empty. Let’s not forget the consequences for one’s skin after a visit to the vetkoek lady on the corner of the street.

While one Yoruba proverb stating that, “The man who has bread to eat does not appreciate the severity of a famine” somehow seems to validate the concerns of the two women in the bus by suggesting that those who have don’t understand the needs of those who don’t -it’s rather narrowed in its analysis.

The lady in question has opted for her current lifestyle because she knows and has experienced what the two have alluded to. Having lived it doesn’t mean she has to merely accept it.

Despite a debate in the office about this being to the contrary, let’s face it-healthy food isn’t cheap. Granted, you can grow your own or cut down on meat in favour of vegetables and fruits but the drought has made even basic necessities a luxury. But is it the poor or the upwardly mobile that are dying from lifestyle diseases or have the attitudes towards food on the different sides created similar consequences?

The biggest irony about the condition of poverty, though, has to be its metamorphosis from something that allowed a lot of elderly people to have “long life” (The gogos in Limpopo still play soccer because they survived on a diet of locusts, termites and leafy vegetables) to a health hazard.

The reality is that the current economic environment is gradually forcing all of us to reconsider priorities and non-essentials. The importance of food in any given circumstance is something that can never be under-estimated. As they saying goes, hunger knows no season.

What’s your take?

G*

 

 

 

 

 

Woman, Wake Up!

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Save for the obvious public blunders by the likes of advocate Lindi Nkosi-Thomas, who made a spectacle of herself at the Constitutional Court hearing in representation of Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete this week; and lest we forget Judge Thokozile Masipa’s blinded bid to save Oscar Pistorius-one would have to admit that women fall short in supporting one another.

Yet again, the defining moment this week has also been the vindication of advocate Thuli Madonsela in the entire Nkandla saga. Sweet. Some of us knew that the day of reckoning would come for a lot of those who sank to the lowest lows by jumping on the bandwagon to shame her, particularly by using her looks as a weapon.

It wasn’t just the men within the you-know-which-governing-party and its alliance partners but, not surprisingly, the women.

Recently, in crowded rush hour traffic, my bus driver was trying to manoeuvre through the nightmarish Jan Smuts Avenue.  An indistinct car happened to stall (or something to that effect) on the road. The driver kept quiet but there was audible chatter in the two seats behind me. The two women said in unison, “O etsang? and ke mosadi!”. Noted.

The second incident happened on the morning of a different day. This time, the bus driver was trying to allow as much people in the bus as possible and requested those in the isle to move further back. He then nonchalantly mentioned to his colleague how “these women”, he said “once they get in the bus- that’s enough, they don’t care about accommodating the next person getting in”. Noted.

So, what’s seems to be the problem here? Nothing new. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie stated in her now famous “Why we should all be feminists” talk how, from childhood, girls are conditioned to compete for the affections of men and to “aspire to marriage” but never for jobs,etc.

This is partly true, but one could go further and suggest that the fight doesn’t end with fighting for men but continues into workplaces, common spaces and any other place we get an opportunity to size each other up. The working relationship of two women is more likely to have different dynamics as compared to that of two men.

This fight is often than not self-defeating and destructive. The truth is, a lot of the time we (and I mean women) support others not because of their need for it…but because it is convenient for us.

In her book  Lean In: Women, work and the will to lead, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg muses that while women’s professional advancement depends on society (men and women) doing things differently, it’s actually women already in leadership who hold the key to pulling those below to the top.

Sandberg cites that our common experiences and challenges place us in a better position to not only empathise with one another but to also effect sustainable, meaningful change. Yet there aren’t nearly enough women at the top or junior professionals striving for leadership- we’re too busy looking out for ourselves; battling with ourselves and others. We could possibly be our own worst enemies.

The mere recollection of one group supporting a man during his rape trial years ago and marching for his dignity a decade on while being aloof on critical gender issues reveals a sad state of affairs.

Ultimately, we can chant as many slogans as we want and declare a fierce “sisterhood” (and that’s probably a step in the right direction) but until we face the fact that we wouldn’t say anything positive either about a woman who is strong, holds her own and unapologetic about her choices or offer a helping hand to one who seems down and out, all of this will just be white noise.

G*

Dear 2015

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I ought to have known that something was completely off when I started writing less. I lost touch, focusing more on the things that needed to be done than those that truly filled my essence and made me appreciate the beauty of life.

Have I told you how interesting watching people and events from afar is? The things we learn are simply infinite and our differences all the more vibrant. Watching others from a distance is one thing – looking at your own existence is another.

It would appear that the more involved we are with ourselves, the less we see of the world around us. I took a step outside myself and stood at a point where I could see myself for the person I am (and for the person I used to be).

When you are fortunate enough to gain perspective on your own dark side and to witness the monsters that sometimes fester inside, it is an uphill battle to get to higher ground but equally emancipating process.

You were my year to not only gain me, but to also see the world for what it is. I gained me, in so many ways. I lost many people close to me-severed age old friendships and stood in solitude. Pain. None spared. I still realized the world is a wonderful place to be in, and life truly a blessing when you can still change things at every given moment. Aren’t we lucky?

The biggest lesson has been that when you lose some things you gain others. Most of the time, we weep over our losses and lose sight of the good that has come to soothe the pain. My biggest gain was regaining faith in something bigger than myself. That remains my rock. It goes without saying that faith and ultimately, hope, needs to be backed up with action.

I have not deferred from my life’s path and still believe that the best is yet to come. There are still many more things to write about, experiences to live through and skies to soar.

PS: To those who have read my blogs even through my absence, I see you-and I thank you. I hope you find your own way through the maze that is life.

Wishing you a safe holiday season and a kick-ass 2016!

G*

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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.

CHEERS TO THE LOVELY BLOG NOMINATION!!

Well, well, well Ms Amanda Wood of journeyofmixedemotions.com has really done it this time.  Motivating why I deserve to be nominated and subsequently bestowed with the honour of this award is truly humbling. I’m reminded of standing in podiums years ago faced with a sea of eyes all waiting to hear what I had to say. My knees always went jelly. That prepared me so well for this!

Amanda, you are one of the souls who make blogging a worthwhile experience. I appreciate that. Kea leboga!

So, taking my cue from her;

The rules are simple ♦:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you,
  • To share seven things about you
  • To nominate up to 15 bloggers.

7 Things About Me

  • I’m ambidextrous. While I was born left-handed, my mum beat this out of me and taught me how to use my right hand- I write with my right hand, but shame I do all other things with my left.
  • I’m fiercely curious and live in my head a lot.
  • I prefer writing to talking. I get tongue tied a lot especially when I speak my native seTswana.
  • I’ve got a bad burping habit. I’m talking about the type that will get me booted out of prim and proper dinners. I think the three years of unemployment really made me loose. LOL! I still think it’s gross…OK?
  • I’m not good at small talk; I totally suck at it-either I go the whole nine yards into a conversation or I don’t.
  • I used to be an introvert growing up. I’m still one-when it suits me. But the extrovert has totally taken over.
  • I talk- and sing- in my sleep

Nominees:

  • Tearmatt      – I probably shouldn’t even be reading this one because it’s so macho, but      who says you can’t try and understand men? Thought provoking.
  • Left at      the Lights- a fierce feminist; always on point.
  • Raggamuffinsgospelfan-      Very underrated, and he doesn’t care.
  • Cribbings-      Young, witty and incisive.
  • AddGrainOnEarth-      I like Sydney’s pictorials on Singaporean landscapes…awesome!
  • 400      Days ‘til 40- Education is one thing I really treasure and I’m fascinated      by this lady’s musings and commentary on the state of education in the U.S
  • The      Goddess Academy Blog-Ms Msimango, your WOW!ness is awe inspiring!