We’re in it for the long haul

I’m living my life in kind of the best of time and the worst of times. I live in a country where we have amazing human rights, lots of land and great wine but our political climate causes the kind of uncertainty that sometimes just wants to drive your head into the nearest hole or even on the path to immigration.

I’ve made it clear that I find these times interesting as I think our political climate has reached a point of frank discussion and the man on the street understanding that he has power. More and more questions are being asked around corruption and while not everyone will get taken to task for their dishonesty more and more people are at least asking questions which prove that we are not satisfied  as a nation by fat cats and tax abuse. The people who defend our version of a free world are constantly being badgered but they are strong.. They are as strong as past leaders who liberated this country who realised that while they might not win the fight they will win the war.

I was inspired today by a video clip I watched as produced on Beautiful News South Africa as produced by News24. You can watch it here. It’s a good story in itself about how Enos Mafokate worked for what would become his symbol of revolution and success and  how he became a community leader and business man in a free South Africa. What struck me as really powerful though is his simple statement at the end of the clip: “I have learned a lot. You mustn’t look only [at] yourself. You must look far away.”

This is powerful because it summarises struggles and hardships in such a simple way. He’s version of struggle is different to the current struggles (youth unemployment and corruption) but they are struggles non-the-less and we simply can not expect them to be solved overnight. It’s not always about now and me, it’s often about us and tomorrow because it’s only by working hard and forging ahead that we will realise the other thing he said knows with certainty “Give South Africa a chance; you will see a miracle. I’m telling you, it’s number one.”

I’m here to agree with him and do what it takes. I’m in it for the long haul and I know there are many others like me. Despite how hard it might be now, it will be worth it.

Shosholoza

Shosholoza is a song which I heard for the first time in 1995. It somehow become one of the anthems of the Rugby World cup we were fortunate to host. Yes, that world cup that brought a nation together.

I LOVE the song. I try to incite its singing within the crowd every time I’m at a live rugby match and I get the chills every time I hear it. Weirdly though, until today, I didn’t know what it meant. If it wasn’t for this blog I wouldn’t have bothered to find out but I thought I had better do my due diligence before I start writing about it.

I chose to write about it since it drove me to tears again now when I watched a clip of the South African Paraolymipics team sing an impromptu version while waiting their turn at the opening ceremony.

So, I realised it’s time hail something as simple as a song. A song, which to me, speaks of unity and strength and in it’s simplicity is just beautiful. Finding out what it means put this song in a new light though. It’s still a very positive one but it’s bitter sweet. It’s about a train running away from South Africa over the mountains. A tune I can only suspect was written to wish well the oppressed people who were lucky enough to escape our past atrocities. The song wished that the train “run fast” which is probably why it became a sport anthem in that the train can be an analogy for athletes.

To me though there is one extra gem in the analogy when I think back to 1995 (a year past the birth of our democracy) and I think of everyone singing that song together: The train running fast over the mountain was running away from the old South Africa. That train symbolises a journey which can only be measures in mountains because the struggle was real and hard.

In many ways we’re still on that mountain but I firmly believe the train has now turned back towards its country and South Africans want to work together to get it off that mountain. There are still lots of struggles but there is a nation of people who want to make this country work and so the tracks are headed back home and may we all receive the warm welcome we deserve. Shozoloza.

Mandela Day needs to be Mandela year

I am an avid supporter of Mandela Day. I fully believe that rallying people to do a thoughtful thing on 18 July will show them how easy it is to care for others (humans or animals) and will make them realise how much these gestures are appreciated and how they really can uplift society.

True to  expectation Mandela Day 2016 was a very positive day across the country. Food parcels were handed out, libraries were opened, blanket drives broke Guinness World Records and  cups of coffee were handed out to people who do thankless work in the cold. Many, many, many other things were done and as a nation we will collectively pat ourselves on the back. Thanks Madiba for being an inspiration for something so diverse and meaningful.

I was part of the coffee drive I organised with some of my colleagues. I bought some coffee, organised some urns and spent my 67 minutes handing out hot coffee and tea to car washers, security gaurs, wastepreneurs, fruit sellers and security guards. Most were surprised that someone had thought of them, it made me feel good that we could say thank you to them for the often thankless work they do in the cold. Of course I feel good.

What has bothered me ever since yesterday morning though is that a single cup of coffee and biscuit handed out is only a moment in time for these people. I don’t know what I have done other to say “thank you” and “your work is appreciated”. Yes, on some level that means something. It’s a little boost for everyone, but what about today, tomorrow, a week from now. While I spend quite a lot of time working towards charitable donations / efforts I feel like Mandela Day  has come and gone and in many cases the impact is not long lasting enough.

There is a line of thought that believes that one Mandela Day can inspire people to make every day a Mandela Day. A Mandela Year, year after year, that is what we really need. So, I have thought of some ways you can try and be kind to those around you more often:

  • Make a sandwich or two every day and hand this out to a wastepreneur, newspaper salesperson or car washer you come across on your commute to work. If you can’t make it daily then try for weekly at least
  • When you go out playing Pokémon Go take your, or your neighbour’s dog for a walk. Better yet, contact a local animal shelter and ask if you can take one of their dogs for a walk
  • Separate your plastic and metal waste from your other waste and put in on top of your rubbish bin for the wastepreneurs. How would you like it if things you needed for work were thrown in the dustbin?
  • Treat car guards and parking meter operators as you would treat anyone else whose office you are entering. They are the CEO of that street, they should be treated as such. Same goes for cashiers. If you were treated as a servant (service industry) every day at your own work place you’d be grumpy too. Don’t forget about the lady who washes your hair or does your nails in the salon.
  • Go to that picnic or festival night your local dog shelter, nursery schools, recreational centre or nursing home has organised. It’ll probably be fun. Your few bucks for a picnic spot and some entertainment will go a long way
  • Support restaurants and recreational facilities in your neighbourhood. If you support them, they can stay open and employ people and you’ll have no vacant properties just a few blocks from your house. Less safety concerns and a great community spirit = winning.
  • Call your granny. In fact, write her a letter she can read whenever she misses you. I send post cards to my mom every day when I travel overseas. They only arrive well after I’m home but it reminds her that I love her. If I still had a granny I would write her too
  • Support local handymen. Obviously get a good reference but you might meet a reliable guy who uses your money to support this whole family
  • Do your very best to not slam down the phone when you realise you’ve just been called by a telemarketer. I always listen politely to their introduction and then firmly say “no thanks”. If they carry on after that I interrupt with “I don’t need what you’re offering. I’m ending this call”. I like to think it takes the edge off. They’re just doing their job
  • Tip well for good service. Let the manager know if you’ve received bad service. If things don’t improve it’s their loss when you don’t go back
  • Tip car guards and petrol attendants
  • Donate old clothing and everything else. It’s amazing what it useful to charitable organisations. Donate books to your local school. Books can really change the world.
  • Choose a charity to support every few weeks/months. I periodically donate to the South African Guide Dog Association and send dog food to Dogtown every 6 weeks or so once I’ve accumulated enough eBucks to buy and get free delivery via Take A Lot. Nothing is easier
  •  Donate an annual box or two/three/four/twenty to http://www.santashoebox.co.za. It’s a great cause. Club in with a few friends if you need to – it’s really worthwhile. When you donate put a few extra small items in the box and also write the child a short note to make them feel special. That note can impact a life in a very positive way – it’s nice to know someone really thought about you, even if you’ve never met that person face to face

There are many, many, many other things we can do but these are things I feel like “normal” working 9 – 5 people can do without too much effort. These are really small things that can make a positive impact on the souls who are often the most overlooked in society or taken for granted. If you’re able to organise town clean-ups or go paint houses at orphanages then please do that too but for most of us the small things done constantly will also help a lot.

You can set an example to your family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, the world. Madiba Day yesterday. Joe Soap day, every day

Start today.

South African generosity is a well spring

There has been a severe drought in SA for what seems like ages now. Some areas have received rain recently but four provinces have been declared disaster sites. The government has made some effort to help but people are still dying in queues while waiting for water and children are competing with cattle for drinking water. Hundreds heads of livestock have been lost and a lot of people are in dire straits.

Thanks to the South African spirit of innovation and generosity thousands of people have come together in order to do what they can to support communities in need. One 1l,2l or 5l at a time ordinary South Africans have been helping in campaigns to bring some relief to those in need.

Individuals and companies alike have used social media to mobilise and the results have already been evident. People are digging deep and networking up a storm to make sure that everything is done to avoid more death. It’s heart warming to see the pictures and read the stories. People are simply helping because they can but they’re making friends along the way and literally savings lives. It’s amazing.

This to me is the value of the South African spirit. We will not let each other suffer despite our difference. It’s amazing how an emergency can bring people together.

I encourage you to get involved. I’ve already rallied my colleagues to donate water and one person alone is bring 55 litres tomorrow which I will take to a drop off point who in turn will take it to a truck depot. Every litre helps and can save a life.

Visit their website for drop off points and their FB page for updates. Please don’t delay to join the cause

“African Sky Blue, will you bless my life” – Johnny Clegg

So, I was brave enough to make the pilgrimage to Oppikoppi this year. I say brave because spending three days in all that dust surrounded by 20 000 festival revellers is not for the faint hearted. I go because I love music and want to support South African music. I go because I like hanging out with my friends and marvelling at the people who attend these events. While there though you have to deal with scorching hot days, freezing nights, dust (all the dust), sleeping in a tent and porterloos (bleg). It’s awesome and trying all at the same time.

When deciding to go to Oppi you need to ask yourself “Which bands on the line-up makes all the dust worth it?”. It’s a fair question because you’re not going to travel to Oppi if you only like hip-hop and house, it’s a rock festival after all. They try and cater for wider tastes by hosting DJ sessions at the Red Bull stage but ultimately it’s for the rockers. My answer to this question this year was firmly Johnny Clegg. I have always loved his music. I loved his music before I knew what a activist/struggle musician was. I didn’t care – I liked his music. I was raised with rock and alternative music so it makes sense. As I learned more about him I liked him even more, and obviously his music resonated with me on a different level because I so appreciate what he did for the country. So, off I go to Oppi to watch Johnny Clegg.

I had been for the first time 2 years ago. We went to watch Deftones which literally involved: arriving early afternoon, visiting with some friends, eating a pizza, watching (and loving) Deftones, catching a fitful nights sleep, and buggering off at 4 the next morning. It was a very short stay but I immediately realised there was one notable difference to this Oppi than the one in 2013: there were a lot more black people. Another thing I noticed which I didn’t quite register last time is that most of the white people are Afrikaans. Historically not a good mix.

For years Oppi was a “white” festival. Not by design but because of the past and because “white” rock music had not ever been widely distributed into the black culture. It’s one of those things. Different people like different music. But, in the same way that a lot of white people now prefer R&B and Hip-hop and Kwaito or whatever, more black people have been exposed to rock and have decided that they prefer that. Of course I’m stereotyping but I do so with fair accuracy.

Therefore, it stands to reason that more and more black people will want to come to Oppi – it’s where their music is at. What overjoys me is that the integration seems to have happened almost naturally. There was no evidence I saw of “us” and “them”, there was no”get away from me” or “I’m scared you’re going to punch me in the face because you don’t think I belong.”

Yes, people are different and some people still stereotype but generally everyone seemed to get along. Everyone was there for their own reasons and people didn’t just pick a fight based on their difference (not that I saw or heard of anyway). It was great. And, with time there will be more and more balance between the revellers cultures and races and we’ll all just be South Africans partying together to enjoy the same music. That is the dream.

Johnny Clegg spoke about this briefly during his show. He said that in the past there were “black festivals” and “white festivals”. He admired that Oppi was heading in a different direction. It is notable and it’s great.

Johnny Clegg was one of the original multicultural rock stars and he is a legend in his own time. I cried throughout most of his set because as an adult is this screwed up time my country is going through he reminds me that we can get through things again with the right attitude and an open heart. African Sky Blue resonated with me because as a South African I would appreciate some Devine intervention right about now because this country with it’s beautiful, diverse and exuberant people deserve something better. As everyday citizens we’ve come such a long way and to have our politicians and political spin drive us apart just isn’t right anymore. It has to end and I think turning to our blue skies for a blessing isn’t unreasonable. We are a religious nation afterall.

I know I can’t just pray for help and all will be better but my point is really that we need to recognize that we all share the blue sky above our Africa and if we allow ourselves to be united good things will happen. We have to work towards it and sort things out. There is a very long way to go but together I know we can do it.

I’ve said so many times that us South Africans, the Scattelings of Africa, are mostly generous and kind and we need to focus on that to make the blessings rain down. I truly am heartbroken when I think of all the segregation and hate that still rears its ugly head so often and I need to believe we can stamp it out. Just stand your ground as a good South African, lead by example and help others where you can. Don’t stand by and ignore the beautiful sunshine on your face while you look down in being suppressed by the minority of crap people in this country. This is my Africa I will fight for it.

Motivation is everything

The state of the nation bothers a lot of people. It bothers me. The difference between me and a lot of people is that I really believe in this country. I want to work towards making it better. I am not a politician, or a superhero and can only do so in small ways but I damn well am trying. There are lots of people like me. There are lots who do it better than me. It is encouraging

What’s disheartening are the people who just complain. They complain a lot. Often on Facebook. I feel like I’ve been inundated the past few weeks. Now, I am not for a second pretending that bad things don’t happen. Nor do I think it’s ok for someone to try and break into your house. It most certainly is not.

But I do take issue with people who just seem to complain for complaining’s sake. I wonder what they are doing to try and make it better. You’re living here. You may just as well make an effort. This paraphrased sentiment from Mumford and Sons puts is in perspective for me:  You will only win when your enemy is bigger than your apathy.

And therein lies the truth. People really are complaining for complaining’s sake. They’re not really as badly off as they seem to think or make out to be. Because if things really bothered them enough, IF it really was so important to them they would be doing something to make a change. Most of us are not activists but we are also not helpless.

Start with the basics: Get to know your neighbours. Lead by example. Do not drive drunk. Do not bribe that expecting cop when he pulls you over for driving drunk. Do not allow the municipal worker to tar your driveway for a couple of hundred bucks when that tar is destined to fill potholes. Don’t buy bootleg media. Support your local video store who actually employs someone and thereby support their family. Tip all service. Overtip excellent service. Say please and thank you. Leave some good food for the guy who digs through your rubbish to recycle your plastic. Choose your charities wisely but then give generously. Support your colleagues child’s school raffle. Greet and acknowledge each other. Don’t get angry over nothing and for petes sake – stop complaining and make a difference. And Buz Lurman will be fine if you share your sunscreen.

Nek nominating the South African way is much cooler

If like me, you don’t really know what a “nek nomination” is I refer you to this definition by Urban Dictionary

“An internet/social media trend where one is nominated by a friend to post a video of them drinking large amounts of alcohol usually in a funny, creative, or absurd way. This normally involves the chugging of multiple beers, 26ers, or mickeys. The nominee must complete a challenge within 24 hours of being nominated. Once the challenge is complete the person then nominates three other friends to each complete their own version of a nek nomination video, post it online, challenge three more friends, and the cycle continues.”

Yeah, definitely not something I considerable fun or admirable. What a waste of good drink and you’re probably slaughtered afterwards. Not cool. Not fun.

Perhaps Brent Lindeque from South Africa was thinking the same thing when he decided to do something different and good with his nomination. He filmed himself giving a homeless person some food and then nominated two other people to do the same (well, give to the less fortunate in any case). He has taken something rather ridiculous and turned it into something positive.

Brent could have lived in any country in the world but he lives in South Africa where he brings attention to a serious problem and prompts people to think about it an act about it. His YouTube video of his revised nek nomination has over 100 000 views so I think he’s making a difference. He makes me proud to be South African. We like to party but we’re also generous and like to help those around us. He is leading SA

I know the nominations have taken effect with several charities posting on Facebook that they have received donations from people taking part in nek nominations. May the trend long continue. There are a lot of people yet to be nominated.