#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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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’
 

Is Africa Self-defeating?

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The month of May kick-starts the commemoration of the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the OAU, as well as the African Union which was founded little over a decade ago. It is also a good time for the Union to reflect on how far it has come in its mission to “promote an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”.

A McKinsey report reveals that despite the obvious challenges such as conflict, a shift in economic and social policy could see Africa making headway in the long run in terms of development.

The report classifies African states into three categories: Diversified economies; South Africa forms part of this group along with Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. These countries are said to be the most developed, with the least volatile GDP.

The second categories of states are those in the Transition phase; countries such as Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya are included in this group. These ones are not nearly as developed as the first group, though exhibiting potential for growth. Pre-transition economies such as the DRC, Ethiopia and Mali constitute the third category of countries with the lowest GDP and are still very poor.

This is the state of Africa fifty years on. The truth is that the continent remains generally poor relative to its abundant natural resources. South Africa has played a key role in many developmental endeavours (such as NEPAD, SADC) both in the Southern African region and the continent at large through the contribution of financial and human resources.

Therefore, it is not surprising that recent reports of negative statements by Zambian deputy president, Guy Scott about South Africa (and South Africans in general) put a damper on things for some of us who believe that despite our country’s internal discord- within the international arena-South Africa has proven itself to be a force to be reckoned with. While I believe his statements were lacking tact, the level of truth in them cannot simply be swept under the carpet.

One of the statements made by Scott was one pertaining to the historical (under) development of South Africa in comparison to other African states. While at face value it appears that Scott is ignorant of the structural development in this country; the reality is that the rampant corruption, looting of state resources and abuse of public funds is undermining economic growth. Other areas compromised include education and health care and sanitation, which South Africa should, ideally, have under control.

In the eyes of Guy Scott and others who share his perspective, South Africa is a lot like the self-absorbed and ignorant spoilt brat of the continent who has most things at her disposal. In most instances her people refer to the greater Africa as the ‘other’ and suffer from severe xenophobia. This is despite the fact that her children have one of the lowest ratings of literacy and numeracy skills at basic education level- ultimately resulting in an inadequately skilled workforce.

Having listened to many ‘comic’ yet equally alarming conversations by some ladies on regular commutes to work, passing the snaking queues at the Home Affairs branch in Marabastad; it is clear how ignorant ordinary South Africans are to the harsh realities faced by fellow Africans. This is often revealed in statements that suggest that the demise of Mandela will signal the mass exodus of all immigrants. The snaking queues on the other hand, reveal the stark reality that, for many refugees and asylum seekers, South Africa is a beacon of hope.

Without seeking to justify our obvious short-comings as South Africans, the large influx of our fellow Africans is a burden on the economy of the country, and the scramble for scarce resources a direct consequence of that.How does Mr Scott suggest resolving this?

Truth hurts. Naturally, when confronted with absolute and unadulterated truth the first response is denial. However, the revelation of truth offers one the opportunity to reflect positively on what the implications are and how to best go about managing change (if any). So, the truth really acts as a necessary control measure to ensure that we don’t get caught up in our own illusion.

Of course South Africa has its own demons, but so does the rest of Africa.The latter, whose citizens make up the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers in the country, need to do some introspection of their own. The Guy Scotts of this world also need to be part of the solution and not merely criticize at will.Now is as good a time as any, especially within the context of the 50th anniversary of the OAU.

This one is dedicated to conquering the curl…

How can I begin to describe the joy and pride I felt when I finally got a chance to comb my daughter’s hair without dreading her crying and wincing? How about the feeling of finally ending the torment of constantly devising a strategy in my mind about how to pounce on her? Well…Priceless! I couldn’t be happier really, and I’ve no doubt that she would agree with me on any given day. Sure, now we fight over the comb, mhmm…yep: Now she always wants a chance to stare into the mirror and do her thang. Go on baby, mommy doesn’t mind.

Where’s this coming from? Well, a bunch of us ladies held a dialogue on Facebook a while ago; a friend from varsity who is a mother of two posed a question as to why people relax their children’s hair. No, rephrase, she asked why women are crazy enough to do such a horrid thing to their kids. So, I’m pretty certain she had a disgusted look on her face while typing away that question and perhaps punching the keypad just a tad harder for effect. I felt quite relieved that she did not pose the question to me in person because I think I would have had to run for cover. Seriously.

I knew I had put myself in the line of fire when I admitted to having relaxed my three year old’s hair at some point. In fact, I was almost branded a bad mother. My defence was that combing her hair had become a nightmare for both of us; while I tried to brainwash her into thinking the comb wasn’t actually her enemy-although it may hurt some- she would be eyeing the closest exit. I mean, go on…go on and tell that to someone who is less than a metre tall and has curly hair (read: coarse/bantu hair).

Nevertheless my defence fell on deaf ears. Frankly, I thought this woman o iketsa betere simply because she’s coloured and neither her daughters nor she have had serious hair woes. No, the closest she has come to curly is with the gerry curl. I reckon she is very fortunate but at this rate I doubt she will ever fully understand the politics of African hair. I heard a radio jock quip on his breakfast show some time ago about how beautiful Batswana women are. He further joked that however, we have the toughest hair out there. Laughs. Maybe he’s got a point?

For the mere fact that I grew up with hair that was very stubborn, I understood my daughter’s frustrations. Although I don’t remember being quite as squeamish as her and having had quite a good relationship with the comb, I still empathise with her. I don’t comb my hair anymore  since it’s in locks now. That was purely by choice (and lack thereof) because no matter how much I straightened it, I could never get my hair to look as fine as my sister’s. It completely had a mind of its own, so I gave in.

Though I had reservations, I decided to relax her hair though we would struggle with the maintenance thereafter because children aren’t adults; they don’t care much about staying clean. Play is standard. So I cut it off a few times before we finally got it right because I also wanted my girl to have colourful bows on her head and not to be constantly bald, nah. I can’t say I don’t cringe when I see a pre-scholar spotting a weave, wig or other complicated hairstyle at the mall and I concur it is very cruel and selfish for mothers to go to such extremes. I don’t think I’ve gone to the extremes by relaxing my daughter’s hair and allowing her to enjoy simple things like combing her hair. Quite simply I reckon I have emancipated her.

She still has ample time to grow and decide what she wants to do with her crowning glory, but for now I call the shots.