Ode to We

We, the bold ones, open-hearted thinkers, tradition’s pests
We are the children whose tongues eject the inappropriate and unexpressed
We, aficionados of our brother’s and sister’s cries wrapped in rage
We are the promulgators of our affections, the heroes of street and page
We don’t fear judgment; we dare to embrace its belligerence
We are warriors rebelling against our inherited ignorance
We acknowledge that in the torment of another’s heart we are alien
We are incarnations of our dead, we are present, we are ancient
We see the notions of pain; we’ve been visited by violence
We’ve midwifed annihilation, we trust our resilience
We travel to the ends of our own trauma through our unease
We tread across our apprehension to collect our peace
We proclaim that housekeeping our collective shit is an inevitable mess
We invite our neighbours into our soul’s kitchens unkept
We are bona fide healers of hearts, designers of destiny
We are fearless creators of the sweetest harmonies
We have high expectations of us
We are no longer the dying celebration of us
We are infinite, we are strong
We are the refrain in humanity’s endless song

Advertisements

Are we changing for the better?

Most people in my social circle would ask me what church I attend (or which Christian sect I align my beliefs with). When I respond that I’m not Christian they ask which religion I ‘belong’ to. I’m not sure where I got off the wagon but I don’t ‘belong’ and prefer to quite simply… use my brain when making decisions and be informed by what I feel.

I think that’s acceptable.

I enjoy finding literature, videos or music which expresses what I believe (or don’t believe) in an effortless way. Here’s some by the British Humanist Association. A related YouTube channel is available, but here’s some of the video clips.

Plain people (Part 2)

This post is a continuation of this one. It also follows on from this train of thought on the topic of freedom.

Our stories are age old, rolled over and into new generations.

We spawned nations, rewrote our gods into continuation.

Every other king succumbs to his honest urge for more.

And during the quest he lost his way and watered our appetite for war.

Though I wasn’t there, I am entirely familiar with some of the effects of apartheid for this period in our history did considerable damage to our view of ourselves and one another. I see it daily; I think it often. I have to chide and coach and coax myself internally to redirect my behaviour from the perceptions I’ve inherited. Today it takes more effort than it should to connect and collaborate because we have become suspicious of our world.

Today there is less physical threat from those outside our communities. We fight among ourselves for resources – we have become a threat to our own existence. In addition to this we also have to make a tremendous effort to survive because we have to dodge our own bullets and we fail to see what silently, subtly, takes ownership of our livelihoods. It’s not corporations headed by old white men. It’s not the government and its poorly devised policies that continue oppressing us. It’s not these opportunists we have crowned kings.

It’s our own ignorance; and this we own well. In fact, we don’t want to give it up and admit to our part in the failures of our country. We demand leaders because we need someone to blame for not building our homes, raising our children, feeding our families – this keeps us sane. Imagine the trauma we’d experience if we gave up this shield of timidity and accepted our self-created chaos.

Imagine how scary it would be to surrender our continued acknowledgement of inferiority and our proud ownership of our poverty. Perhaps we would realise that our blind ambition to hold on to the little we have is because we have no concept of co-managing our resources. Our fear of reverting to a time when we had nothing has disabled our sound reasoning and perceptions of the world. Ironically, in the past the lack of money and assets provided the playing space for our intellect, empathy, creativity, entrepreneurial ventures and success of our communities.

Let’s go back there where nothing is.

Nothing lasts forever; it’s not hers nor is it his.

There is no waiting room here, everything’s free.

Here we are endlessly wealthy with currency in creativity.

As long as we are led from outside our neighbourhoods and continue to rely on this leadership to the extent that we are free from blame when things go wrong in our streets and our homes, we will always be followers. The only freedom we’ll have is to be free from, and unrestricted by, ownership and accountability.

Plain people (Part 1)

Once upon a time there was a village of plain people.

Their days were sweetened with not knowing freedom.

A dormant notion never seeded in their minds.

Because they had no war to wage against earth kind.

I wasn’t around to experience apartheid in South Africa but I’m weary of it. I cannot hear stories of being chased by men bearing guns and menacing faces without trying hard to imagine the fear, the blood motivating legs to safety or to stand and fight; and then the anger cementing the heart of the hunted a little more each time.

I try to imagine living under a physical threat imposed on me by outsiders; being made to feel less than I am because it’s the only way to live, or rather, survive. And I can’t. I don’t want to. I don’t want to replicate a sense of fear and inadequacy; I don’t need to be a soldier. I really don’t. It serves no purpose to mechanically fight each difference. What I need is to live healthy, be safe, keep the world turning with you. That’s enough, right? If any behaviour of mine will be automatic let it be to preserve you, for me. That’s the only kind of selfish I want to be.

We’ll acknowledge our humanity when others deny it; we’ll proclaim it in a bold way, a brave way. We need not threaten the economic existence of those we gave power to for decades. We simply need to start practicing that empathy that was shared among our parents and grandparents across the span of our backgrounds…

Freedom: our treasure and our trash

I have been thinking for a while about what it is that distinguishes what we sometimes refer to as the ‘hood, ghetto or township from other neighbourhoods. Why would I spend my time and energy on this? Because it bothers me that where I come from it seems no one really cares that there is filth piling up at their front door; that children are more concerned with the brand of shoes on their feet and do not have any concept of the effort it takes their parents to support their basic needs as well as satisfying the additional material demands they make which is influenced by peer pressure.

Besides the obvious economic divide that separates communities why is it that higher income neighbourhoods have clean, tree-lined streets, homes and parks with neat, lush gardens and public service offices (clinics, libraries, police stations etc) with welcoming premises and value-adding service providers? Why is it that there are more visible social ills (poverty, vandalism, higher teen pregnancy rates, schooling challenges) in the so-called middle and lower income communities than in those where people live more affluently?

I have not yet visited a neighbourhood like Delft or Maitland where there was not defaced property; heavily fenced school grounds with bars on broken windows and doors; domestic waste scattered about, blocking gutters; uninviting recreational spaces or recreational spaces occupied by unemployed young men idling away their time (rather than children playing). Surely having more money does not determine the physical appearance of community. I’m aware of research available that alludes to some kind of connection between these but the stats do not explain what happened to common sense and consideration for shared spaces.

Our communities are ugly. It makes you wonder what’s lurking underneath the dirt. Yet there are so many gems in these neighbourhoods – people with innovative ideas, individuals who have a genuine interest in serving the community and talented artists. From experience I know that lack of capital often stunts the progress of small business ventures and community projects. I also know struggling artists, many who gave up their dreams to take care of their families because they do not get the opportunity to connect with the resources they need to be financially successful as creatives.

This fact that poorer communities are dirty bugs me. It’s such a simple thing. You produce waste, you dispose of it. You don’t throw it in your front yard. If an entire family is comfortable living in a home they don’t care about keeping tidy then naturally very few (if any) of the families in that street or area will care that an empty field down the road is overgrown with bushes and gathering dirt, or worse, that it will end up being a potentially unsafe playing space for children.

So no one takes ownership of keeping things clean even though, for most, the community they live in may be their place of residence for the rest of their lives. Their children will be raised in the same neighbourhood and accept the state of things as normal. Communities belong to those who reside in it. The government and public service providers cannot be held accountable for the trash we generate and litter our streets with. With the level of poverty and the number of poor communities, is it reasonable to demand improvement from overextended public services when we are all so deep in this crap? Are dirty streets are symptom of broken homes, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, marital trouble and financial struggle? Or is our environment the cause of these issues? Garbage in; garbage out.

Does anyone wonder about this? Shouldn’t we know better? Don’t we want better?

Lomogram_2013-11-20_06-07-50-PM

Perhaps South Africans were so overwhelmed by freedom that they overlooked the accountability that came with finally owning it. We’re once again at a key point in our history; Madiba has passed on and the world celebrates his legacy with us. The more footage I see on TV in memory of him, the more I am puzzled about our tendency to be lead, and saved from ourselves. I am grateful to have witnessed the work of such an amazing person. It reminds me that I don’t need capital or a savvy business plan to contribute to changing communities; more importantly, it highlights the urgent need to us all to play a role.

I came across this tale last week and with a heavy heart I realise the magnitude of the damage that is done when our spirits are crushed by others. When the human heart gives up, there is very little money can do to restore hope. In fact, using money as a quick fix to correct economic inequality can do more harm when shared values are not in place.

Satan was having a sale of his wares and on display offered were the rapier of jealousy, the dagger of fear, and the strangling noose of hatred, each with its own high price. Displayed separately was a worn and battered wedge; this was not for sale. This was the devil’s most prized possession. It was the wedge of discouragement.

The devil explained that the wedge of discouragement was the best tool in his arsenal because hatred, fear, or jealousy may lead an immature person to act unwisely, but he will act none-the-less. But discouragement causes makes man sit down, pity himself, and do nothing.

 Madiba's Freedom

I hope for positive, healing change for us all, in our hearts, our speech and our behaviour.

I was born into it, but it’s not my skin

If you were born into a family that was Christian, Muslim, Xhosa, Indian, Zulu, Sotho, Hindu or any other religion or culture that would probably be the first set of rules that would mould your speech, your behaviour and your thinking. It would be the only way to live because every other way is not that way. That would be the right way to live because your parents live that way, and their parents and all the parents before them.

Let’s read the bible and say a prayer before sleep.
Genesis is good and for a child, not too deep.
God made the sun on day one, 5 days thereafter he did more work.
On the last day he rested – like Sundays when we go to church.
He made us in his image, so we can be just like him.
He gave us everything we need to live well and without sin.
He made Adam and Eve as the very first beings,
Free to live and populate but not eat from the tree in
The garden’s centre, for this was forbidden.
But they failed – they sinned and had to leave Eden.
Fortunately for them our God is good,
He let them live as only a forgiving God would.
Even though they were bad, and disobeyed
God loved his children who in his image were made.

But if god made the sun on day one and the moon the next day,
Then shouldn’t Sunday be first and the second day Monday?
I thought god was alone as he made our world,
But who was he talking to when he made the boy and girl?
I’m glad god made me to look like him,
But I’m a girl, Mom, was there a girl with them?
How did they come from heaven and make us here?
Why’s my skin brown and hair curly if god is blonde and fair?
Why did god throw them out of the garden just for eating a fruit?
I’m glad you’re not so strict with me, but god must surely think I’m no good.
My friend says their Allah and our god are one and the same.
So why do people say they are not saved and call them names?
This story is nice but it’s not real like today.
If I get it wrong I hope you won’t send me too far away.

 

I remember the first time I read a part of the Bible and asked questions that, for a young mind, were very reasonable to ask. And as a child, I asked these questions out of natural, guiltless curiosity before my family’s way become the only way for me to understand the world and I adopted the concept of faith and (cultural) roots. I had no idea what I was really struggling with then; I had not yet made high school. But it’s basically this: what makes this way better, more correct, than everything else?

Since we’re born into it, and it’s not a part of my anatomy, I don’t really need it do I?

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” James A. Baldwin