Category: Current Events & Politics

Happy birthday, Mzanzi

Happy birthday, Mzanzi

Today is South Africa’s birthday, and at 21 years old this country is about as well-behaved as your average legally-an-adult-but-mentally-still-a-teenager who is still coming to terms with the new-found freedom that comes from escaping the restrictions of the parental home and the ability to legally purchase alcohol (which happens at eighteen over here, but by twenty-one most have not yet adapted).

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A Grammar What?

A few weeks ago, on an online writer’s forum, a user posted a request for a “Grammar Nazi” to beta read their manuscript. I knew what they meant. They wanted someone with a sharp eye, a good grasp of grammar and a brutal approach to editing to specifically check for language errors in their writing. However, I did not expect the response this poor user’s post evoked.

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Mandela Day without Mandela

Today would have been Nelson Mandela’s 96th birthday.  As you hopefully know, his birthday was declared Nelson Mandela Day by the United Nations in 2009.  It is supposed to be a day dedicated continuing Madiba’s legacy, and to the idea that every individual can make a contribution toward making the world a better place for all.  I wrote about Mandela Day and in particular my opinion around the whole 67-minutes idea last year.

Today is also the first Mandela Day since his death in December last year.

It feels to me like it’s much less of a big deal this year.  Last year politicians were all over the place, putting in their 67 minutes of charity work.  This year (judging by newspaper headlines) they’re all sitting in budget votes or testifying before commissions investigating government corruption, except for our president who’s apparently cleaning a school.

I’m wondering if all the hype last year was simply because of Mr Mandela’s illness and the approaching elections.

I really try not to be cynical, but sometimes…

Update:  According to the evening news our politicians did indeed put in their 67 minutes today, and some of them even more than that.  It doesn’t temper my cynicism, though.  I can’t help but think our country would be much better off if they spent every day out in the streets picking up trash and giving food to homeless people, rather than sitting in parliament debating pointless laws…

Here’s an idea: people elected to political office must be obligated to spend ten hours a week minimum doing humanitarian work which requires them to be in actual physical contact with people requiring aid.  Attending fundraising banquets don’t count, nor does any work involving sitting in an office.  If I ever become supreme ruler that’s the first law I’m implementing.  I have spoken.

When humans forget they are

You know I prefer to keep things light on if all else fails.  The world is serious enough without me contributing.  But sometimes one has to unsheath the hammer and start whacking stuff.

Imagine this:  You come home from work.  Hang on.  Did I say home?  I mean the shack knocked together from scavenged wood and corrugated iron sheets without water, electricity, plumbing or a floor which is the only home you can afford.  So, you come home from work.  Except, your home isn’t there.  Some guys in overalls had pulled it down and all your stuff that used to be inside is gone.  Normally in a situation like this you’d call the police, but they’re already there, standing in a line between your angry and crying neighbours and the men systematically destroying your homes, protecting the latter.

If you think this sounds like something that happens in third world dictatorships you’ll be right, but not this time.  This time it happened in a country that less than a month ago had its fifth free and fair democratic elections as they celebrated twenty years of freedom from oppression.  Yeah.  Right.

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On donkeys and democracy

When one mentions George Orwell, most people immediately think of Nineteen Eighty-Four.  But a few years earlier Orwell had written another little book, a novella titled Animal Farm.  Nineteen Eighty-Four is undoubtedly Orwell’s master work, with it’s terrifying depiction of a society where every citizen is watched so closely that even talking in your sleep can get you arrested and where the rulers are so confident in their power that they entertain themselves by allowing individuals the illusion of freedom and rebellion, only so that breaking them later is that much more devastating.  It is a warning of where we can end up if we sit back and let those in power have too much.

Animal Farm 1954 DVD cover
Cover of the 1954 animated film

But more significant in my eyes is Orwell’s little fairy tale, as he called it, for Animal Farm shows us just how easily society can reach that state.  Animal Farm, for those of you who’ve never read it, is a fable about a bunch of farm animals who rebel against their human master, run him off the farm, and start working the land for themselves.

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