TLDR; I wank off about history (a passion of mine) and then list a couple cool things going on right now.
Its been a crazy couple months for South Africans. Beyond navigating the devastation being wrought by the pandemic, our country was further rocked by a wave of violent crime being committed en masse with shops being looted and xenophobic violence tearing through communities. Its been tragedy upon tragedy and there is a lot of negative energy pulsing through the neural network. People are scared, and gatvol. I hear loads of pessimism about the future of this country and the all too familiar talk of emigration from those privileged enough to have that option. And I get it. If I had kids I might be in that boat too. The future here certainly is uncertain. But I feel it kinda always has been. Its one of the things you need to accept about living here. In Africa. Its never going to be all peace and quiet and rolling lawns, despite what the Bishopscourt bubble may believe.
South Africa is a place of change and turmoil. Cape Town, where I now live, especially seems to have a very pervasive “air” energy. Ever-changing and hard to pin down or even sometimes make sense of. I think it has to do with it being a port. People come and go. The energy is somehow transitory. And the Cape has been a cultural melting pot since long before white people started arriving in ships and on planes. Khoe and San co-existed in this area for a very long time before even the slow trickle of Nguni tribes started changing the demographic of the area now known as South Africa. The mass and concentrated movement of people from central to southern Africa known as the “mfecane” is just another piece of propaganda/creative accounting to defend white rights to land. (Ref: “The Lie of 1652”, Patric Tariq Mellet – read this book if you’re interested in another narrative)
The myth of the “empty land” is also total shite. The story goes that when the Dutch profiteer Jan van Riebeeck arrived here, the Cape was all but empty, except for a few scattered huts and nomadic herdsmen. So he went ahead and settled on the peninsula, establishing a proto-port and the Dutch presence here. This process involved far more armed conflict and underhanded dealings than the conventional history tells and was an attempt by van Riebeeck to salvage a career already stained by some dodgy dealings in the Far East. Anyway, so Portuguese traders had been stopping off here for centuries before the Dutch arrived and the area was known to be well populated by various indigenous tribes organised in a highly functional economic and societal ecosystem. We were taught something very different when I was at school. And not surprisingly. History is written by the “winners”, media spin designed to support the status quo.
You can’t be neutral on a moving trainVinnie Paz is talking about the US but he might as well be talking about SA.
I told y’all before
You can’t believe everything that your teacher tell you
Who is your teacher?
Your teacher just learned what they was taught
How do you know what they was taught was correct?
Know what I mean?
Dig into the real history of this country
And the fact it was built on blood
History is propaganda. The media is just hype, don’t believe it (yeah more hip hop). It is opinionated, it has an agenda and “the news” is not the truth. Not only do broadsheets tailor their message to support the views of whoever owns the paper or whatever narrative it is in their best interests to sell, but sowing fear and anxiety ultimately serves the media in general. It sells papers. It baits clicks. It generates income. It perpetuates the status quo and it pisses me off. I made a conscious choice to disengage with mass media a couple years ago and I am much happier.
This pandemic is proof of how subjective media coverage is. Everywhere is conflicting opinion. There are no truths, only filter bubbles. Believe what you want. Read, research, make your own opinion. That is your right and responsibility as a human being. I think the best thing anyone can do is see the news as entertainment or some form of sick reality TV. With ridiculous characters and plots not even a team of stoned or coked up TV writers could dream up. Donald Trump, case in point.
OK, rant over (kinda). What I actually wanted to do was take a snapshot of my country, without the usual media spin.
Our sportsmen and women are repping hard despite the chaos. I was watching the rugby test series between the Springboks and the touring Lions and was struck by the clinical way the South Africans picked apart the over confident Lions team in the second match. Much like we destroyed England in the Rugby World Cup final. Methodical. Intelligent. We are the Rugby World Cup champions, have the best coach and are by definition the best rugby team in the world. And until the next World Cup we get to savour that accolade. Let’s enjoy it. We won the series too by the way. The Lions didn’t stand a chance.
I’ve also loved watching the Olympics. Its such a celebration of the human spirit, of perseverance and of pushing yourself to improve and realise your dreams. There are beautifully human stories playing out every day during the Games (and also in the Olympic village every night 😉). The South African team had loads of representation and even won a couple medals. We had runners in the sprints and a couple in the longer distances too. Our hockey teams represented well and won games. We competed in several of the water sports, including water polo.
Then there’s Tatjana Schoenmaker, the new darling of SA swimming. Following in the footsteps of other South African olympians like Ryk Neethling and Chad le Clos, she won the hearts of swimming fans the world over. Not only did she win the Olympic gold in the women’s 200m breaststroke but she also became the fastest woman in the world to swim that distance. Ever. Let that sink in. Oh, and she’s from my hometown, Pretoria. I say zop. Her reaction and message to South Africans in the post-race interview was beautiful.
Some other crazy shit happened
In July, a massive, concerted attack on our economy was launched in the form of mass rioting, looting and violence. This was orchestrated by ex military operatives and criminals including several in the political sphere (read more about it here). The whole thing kicked off when our scumbag ex president Jacob Zuma was officially convicted and imprisoned for his crimes, in itself a massive win for justice in this country.
As the riots erupted – in several places at once – it became clear the police had no way of dealing with the situation. Cops were under-equipped, untrained and even started running out of riot suppression collateral like rubber bullets (and real ones). The looters were going ape shit and every crim on the block was out stealing. It was a free for all. Did everyone else hide in their homes and just accept this situation? Nope. Some people took a stand. South Africans (of all colours) armed themselves and stood together to fight back against a wave of criminals looting and pillaging, taking matters into their own hands in a unified cry of “enough is enough.”
South African taxi drivers also took a stand. Yes, our favourite hard working people to hate. They blockaded city centres and helped clean up the streets the looters had moved through afterwards. I think that’s pretty rad.
The violence was eventually contained but I would say this operation was nothing short of a military coup. And it failed. The economy took a serious knock and more hard working South Africans’ right to self determination was taken from them. But the insurgents failed. And the riots were squashed. The whole thing has left mass devastation but it could’ve been worse.
In other news, our COVID vaccination program is in full flight and just about everyone I care about has had their first jab. Based on the media hype around how badly this thing was being handled I expected the rollout to take years. There were stories of shipments of vaccines going missing and disorganisation and chaos everywhere. In stark contrast to this media hype, everyone who has gone for their jab has commented on how well and professionally it has been run. So ja, what was the issue again?
In the tech sphere, another Pretoria kid done good, Elon Musk, is now taking trips into space with fellow oligarchs like Jeff Bizos. Whatever, not super interested in how we’re travelling into space when we can’t get our shit together on the planet we live on, but it is still impressive. Maybe we do end up colonising space. Most humans will never all be able to leave the planet though. Just like most South Africans are also stuck here, with no option to “go look for greener pastures”.
Africa can be a tough place to live. But surviving here builds character, mettle, something my trainer Adriaan calls grit. You gotta have balls to live here. No shit. But this place offers freedoms that Europeans and other first world people can only dream of and this freedom is such a big part of living here for me. I could move to Europe, I have the passport, but home is where the heart is, and mine is still here. With my family and friends. It is not rooted in the land, but in the blood, the shared experience.
I’m calling on any South African who managed to get this far down the page, not to diss this country. Diss the government. They have fucked up on a royal scale. Diss the criminals, they hold us at gun point, quite literally. But don’t give up on South Africa. South Africa is not its government, South Africa is not its crime statistics. South Africa is its people. And South Africans are some of the most talented, tough and resilient motherfuckers you’ll meet.
I just realised its quite fitting that I publish this post on August 9th, Womens Day in South Africa. A day to celebrate the role of SA’s mothers, sisters and daughters in our lives and to commemorate their contribution to passive resistance and the fight for equality.
The chant of the 1956 Womens March:
Peace. Aluta continua.