Category Archives: POLITICS

MY NEW BOOK-THEMED BLOG


 

I subscribe to a number of WordPress blogs about books and reading,  and after enjoying them for several years, it finally dawned on me that maybe I should identify the book-related material in my  own blog  and start a second blog, devoted to books. Ping! Lightbulb flash.

So: I’m happy to announce the launch of THE BOOKSMITH BLOG  http://thebooksmithblog.wordpress.com .  Thanks again to WordPress.com for their blogging platform.  They really do make blogging easy for  wrinkly writers like yours truly. I hope you visit my new blog, even if you’re not an official Booknut like me.  If all else fails, it has quite a funny header pic.

Despatches from Timbuktu  will continue to act as my electronic soapbox where I comment on modern life, South Africa, social trends, my travels around the Western Cape and Cape Town, plus  anything else that might  attract my butterfly attention.

And not to overlook the fact that Despatches From Timbuktu  is  the one place where Chocolat can express her displeasure at my poor performance as her Personal Assistant. Sorry, Chocolat,  but you have no idea how much work building a new blog entails . I promise there’ll be fish for supper tonight. How’s that for an apology?

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Filed under BOOK REVIEWS, CHOCOLAT: MY CAT, EXPLORING CAPE TOWN, POLITICS, PRESENT & FUTURE, READING, SOCIAL COMMENT

*(JAP)MY LATEST LEXICAL TREASURE


*(JAP)MY LATEST LEXICAL TREASURE

Dictionary.com has introduced me to a wonderful new word which I’m about to share with you.  I love it! Both for its comical aspect, and for its meaning. But I’m going to preface my discovery with a few general remarks on the topic of the right to free speech. Theoretically, we have this right in South Africa. But oh! the tsunami of outraged howls when a prominent person dares to voice a personal opinion.  It would seem that free speech is fine, so long as it doesn’t contradict political correctness.  Anyway, I will prudently say no more, and I will leave you to join the dots regarding my latest lexical treasure:

THROTTLEBOTTOM noun [THROT-l-bot-uh m]
1. a harmless incompetent in public office.QUOTES
If there was one function that any vice president, even a Throttlebottom, could be expected to perform it was to represent the president and the country at funerals of notables abroad.
— Carl Solberg, Hubert Humphrey: A Biography, 1984
ORIGIN
The term Throttlebottom was formed after the character Alexander Throttlebottom in the musical comedy Of Thee I Sing (1932).

 

*(Just a Paragraph:  when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph’: random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

 

 

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MY TAKE ON 50 SHADES OF GREY


 

Welcome to my Electronic Soapbox   

Despite the furore over the book and the movie, I still haven’t read 50SoG. Why not? I hear you ask.  You’re a literary snob, yells someone from the back row. Well, yes, a little.  You’re a prude, shouts someone from the front row. No way – not me. I just watched the movie Don Jon which deals very graphically  with a New Jersey young guy’s addiction to on-line porn !

So why haven’t I?  My understanding of the book – and I may well be horribly wrong – is that it is about domination of a young woman by an older man, sexually and psychologically. Wikipedia informed me that 50SoG dealt with :   sexual practices involving bondage/discipline,dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey

These days the notion of bondage sex, or the  whip cracking dominatrix , scarcely raise a ripple. They might raise a lot of other things, but on the whole, they’ve  been relegated into the ho-hum category. Anything goes –  consenting adult’s right to make choices in regard to their intimate lives etc. etc. All very true.  Where are the boundaries? What was once considered as taboo, or scandalous, is now mainstream.

I am baffled why the book has been so popular. Do women really want to be dominated and subdued?

For so many years women across the globe have struggled for political and economic freedom, for the right to education and adequate healthcare. Very recently the young Pakistani teenager, Malala, bravely stood up for her rights, in the face of violence and aggression. She’s been hailed as a heroine. Quite right, too!

Yet here in the West we have the 50SoG phenomenon. Are we so jaded that  we look to books/movies like 50SoG in an attempt to find something new? More tittilating? Maybe Western society really is decadent, degenerate, and morally corrupt, as some Asian and Islamic countries judge us to be. Perhaps they have a point.

Finally, and very close to home, I have an elderly woman friend who has been reduced to a nervous wreck – in the literal sense – by her domineering, control-freak husband. Recently she plucked up courage and fled to a safe haven. But she’s non-functional and penniless, after years of psychological abuse. Is this how women should be treated? Of course it isn’t.

And yet FSG is a publishing and movie phenomenal success. What’s the matter with us?  Think about it. We’re buying into FSG as entertainment ?  Hello? Reality check required here.

And that’s why I won’t read 50 Shades of Grey. You can keep it. Not for me.

 

 

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A SILVER LINING TO A DRAGON CLOUD


 A recent common complaint in my social circles has been the creeping colonization of our country by the Chinese – all sorts of people are complaining about finding Chinese shops, from big malls in the cities to small shops/cafes in the smaller towns and dorps. Why, I’ve even seen Chinese pedestrians walking back from the shops (presumably, because they’re carrying the ubiquitious plastic bags) in my own neighbourhood, and this is a first for me.

My son travels on a monthly basis on business to three African countries : Angola, Nigeria and Ghana and he says he sees growing evidence of Chinese business enterprises in all three countries. Apparently the Chinese are heavily into big construction projects all over Africa, and sadly, they insist on importing their own Chinese labourers to work on these schemes.   How they get away with this beats me – actually, I know how they get away with it – the word is ‘corruption’ which is endemic all over Africa. But it’s a crying shame, given the vast, unemployed, unskilled pool of labour readily available in Africa. They’re hungry for jobs, education and (often) food. And yet African government ignore their own citizens  and permit the import of foreign labour. Makes no sense at all.  On a recent flight to Luanda, Angola, my son said there were so many Chinese passengers on board that the flight attendant gave the safety spiel in Mandarin!  That should tell us all something!

Given the high level of rhino poaching in South Africa – and it has reached epidemic proportions –  forecasters are saying that within 30 years there will be no rhinos left.  And this to feed the Asian trade in traditional medicine. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that many Asians regard powdered rhino horn as an aphrodisiac? Which – scientifically speaking – it is not. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the greedy traders and poachers. Public opinion and sentiment says it does the trick to revive a wilting willy.  One of the  cruel ironies of this situation is that in China, if anybody is caught poaching the Chinese National Animal, to whit, the Giant Panda, they automatically receive the death sentence.  Finish and klaar. No messing around. That’s it – bang, you’re dead.

What a pity that African countries don’t adopt the same strategy – poach our rhinos and elephants for the horns and ivory and you get the chop. Again – corruption is the answer. Greedy politicians are making way too much money out of the trade to stop it.

A recent joke doing the rounds on the internet showed a sign proclaiming : Dried testicles from rhino poachers – best natural Viagra!  Now there’s a brilliant thought, don’t you think so?

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Dogs *can* look up

Dogs *can* look up (Photo credit: caribbeanfreephoto)

THE  DOG DEBATE DEBACLE

 

I reflected  for a while  if I would? should? post my opinions on our President’s latest PR faux pas – my conscience was pricked by my local radio station, Cape Talk, speaking about their ‘Lead South Africa’ campaign, whereby we are constantly exhorted to lead our country, with  small acts on a personal level, or larger efforts on a civic and national level. The idea is we can all do our little bit, perhaps by starting a social upliftment programme, or paying our TV licence fees, obeying the rules of the road, or consciously try to no longer be racist. Despite 18 years of black/majority rule, South Africa is still a deeply divided country, divided by race. Sure, there has been progress and perhaps in another two generations we will be genuinely colour-blind, but we’re not there yet. So: does my article help or hinder?

 

If there was a prize for getting PR/communications wrong, our Presidency would earn a gold rosette with red ribbons.  But maybe I’m being naive. Maybe the President’s spokesman is using Machiavellian tactics, because the President’s recent statement about dog ownership being a White “thing” and not part of Black Culture has certainly distracted the nation from the ongoing enquiries into the wild excess of unauthorized spending on the President’s Inkandhla residence,at taxpayers’ expense. Nobody is talking about Inkhandlagate any more  – the airwaves and the front pages are seething with howls of protest about whether Whites do or do not  pamper their pet dogs and ignore the plight of their fellow humans – Black Culture, you see, espouses the worthy concept of Ubuntu (see definition below) whereas us Whities are too busy taking our dogs for walks, or dashing to the Vet with our ailing canines to worry about ailing humans. Yes, well – no, fine: as we say in South Africa.

So what is Black Culture about, in the year 2012? Does it mean being upwardly aspirational, driving top of the range 4×4, wearing designer clothes, living in multi-million rand mansions, flying business class and sporting a weave – is this behaviour compatible with the principle of Ubuntu?  Nobody says a word about the excesses of the black elite, nobody questions whether this zealous embrace of luxury and capitalism squares up with the tenets of Black Culture.  And if somebody does  – and here am I, an old white woman – how dare I comment on these issues?  Play the Race Card immediately! Do not collect R200, do not pass GO  ….  etc.

Or is Black Culture about being a traditionalist? Living a rural, patriarchial lifestyle, observing traditional ceremonies? Our President is a polygamist, with four wives. In his Zulu heartland he wears animal skin clothing when he participate in traditional ceremonies. Fine – he has every right to do so. But when ‘in town’ he’s in designer suits, and canny enough – at rallies and meetings –  to be up on the stage, dancing and singing traditional Struggle songs, to the delight of his followers. Our President is a Populist, and he knows what his constituency likes.

One gentleman waxed magisterial on the airwaves, telling us that dogs owned by blacks were purely regarded as hunting dogs, and not pets. Now this is true, if we are talking about dogs owned by rural black people. But what of the urban black people living in cities, in the townships, who own dogs – clearly, they are not owned for hunting purposes. And, as an aside, how many times do we not receive appeals from the SPCA/Animal Anti-cruelty/People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals begging us to donate money to ease the plight of the starving, diseased, neglected and abused township dogs?  Hmmm?

Then again, a black lady, living in a Joburg suburb indignantly phoned in to report that she loved her five dogs, walked them often, and that dogs as pets is indeed a Black Cultural “thing.”  Two sides of the same coin.

And let’s not even get onto the subject of farmers riding in their bakkies with the dog in the cab and their workers in the back. A farmer phoned in to say it was for the workers’ protection – a vicious guard dog would attack the workers, if loaded into the back with the men. Yet another listener sarcastically texted the radio station to say: six workers squashed into the cab, and one Pekingese in the back of the bakkie. I don’t think so. As I said, the debate rages on.

Amidst all the uproar, it has been suggested that what the President was trying to say was:we should care more for each other, according to the principal  of Ubuntu, and put people first. Fair enough. But if this is the case, why on earth did he not simply say so instead of playing the ugly and divisive Race Card?

Yet again, as in the case of The Spear of the Nation – remember that uproar in 2012? – it’s a case of  worlds colliding in a mammoth Culture Clash; never mind the Mayan end of the world, we have cataclysmic upheavals of comparable scale. Enough of all this unpleasantness, I must leave you now, to go and consult with my pampered cat as to what she would like for dinner.

  Thanks to Wikipedia:  Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008:[5]

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

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