Xenophobic Ads by Google

Sometimes ads by Google are unintentionally funny. This example is at the end of an article by Ndomiso Ngcobo, discussing the response to the recent xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg.

It seems Google Ads is suggesting that the refugees should have rather gone to the States, which is amusing on a number of levels considering the problems the States have with illegal immigration across their southern border.

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Tale of Three Cities — Part 2

At the end of our trip to Budapest we travelled a little out of the city to visit Memento Park (also called Szorborpark or Statue Park. Not called South Park, but they sold T-Shirts reading Marx Park and I bought one).

The Hungarians were clearly not all that impressed with the communist iconography and promptly stripped their city of all traces of it.
They weren’t angry though because, unlike effigies of Saddam Hussein during the er… “liberation” of Iraq, they didn’t get broken down and destroyed. Instead, they were simply taken down and deposited in a park outside the city.

The first few days in Budapest had magnificent weather. The day we visited Szorborpark was suitably glum and overcast. We couldn’t have timed it better if we religiously checked the forecasts at hourly intervals.

Apartheid Museum

Embarrassingly, it takes an American to get me to visit places in South Africa that I would immediately seek out were I not living in South Africa.

Amanda is in South Africa gathering data for her masters dissertation which, to the best of my understanding, involves interviewing people who have undergone traumatic experiences. I don’t envy her, but I do admire the work she does in studying human trafficking. She is only here for eight weeks, and then back to the States with her information and notes to write up the thesis.

Given this context, it is understandable that Amanda didn’t want to waste time visiting the Silly Buggers Museum (which is unfortunate because I hear that it is very nice). She wanted to visit the memorial to that political system that no-one in South Africa ever agreed with. Funny how a system like that could come into being with absolutely no support. I suppose everyone who thought it was a good idea must have died or emigrated (or both).

If you haven’t been to the Apartheid Museum, and you live in South Africa, I hope your excuse is that you live in Hotazel and have never been to Johannesburg (and only have a vague understanding of the concept of city).
I suppose that’s a little hypocritical of me, considering I visited it for the first time on Sunday and live in Johannesburg. I’ll revise the statement slightly.
After reading this post, I hope you will be making your way to the Apartheid Museum within the next month, provided you live in South Africa and are not holed up in some god-forsaken dorpie in a desert somewhere.

The Apartheid Museum is a beautiful place. Using simple, minimalist architecture it conveys a sense of serenity and peace. Yet there is also an undercurrent of something heavy waiting within. Something these plain concrete walls and tranquil water-features conceal furtively.
As I bought my ticket and entered the museum, a cold foreboding passed over me.

If the architecture of the place doesn’t have an impact on you, then the entrance can’t possibly fail to.
Each person who pays for entrance is given a ticket labelled “White” or “Non-white.” The tickets are handed to you arbitrarily, regardless of your actual genetic heritage. There are two entrances to the museum, and you don’t get to choose which one to enter via. The ticket you have chooses for you. Random. Arbitrary. Ridiculous.
The statement is very powerful, as the first part of the museum keep the “whites” and “non-whites” separated. I wondered whether the museum would be entirely separated like this, and whether I’d be reunited with my wife before leaving.
This initial impact is a lasting one, and the intensity of the place persists throughout.

I found the museum to be brutally honest about South Africa’s turbulent history and, more remarkable, brutally honest about the current state of the nation. Although apartheid has been dismantled, not everyone has been emancipated.
The display on the part women played during the struggle movingly illustrates to what extent women went in fighting against the social ills of the time. I was impressed that the display ended by highlighting the inequities that many women in South Africa still suffer, despite the change in government. The crimes against women that are rife in this country were listed. These things are realities in our country, and the curators of the museum were not afraid of pointing them out. The apartheid museum is not propaganda vehicle of the New South Africa, shouting out “Rah! Rah! Apartheid is vanquished! Look how perfect everything is now.”
This wasn’t the only place where the museum gave a balanced representation of the political events which had occurred. For this I am grateful, and inordinately impressed. It kicked any cynicism I might have felt about South Africa squarely in the buttocks.

We were at the museum for roughly three hours, and I didn’t even look at everything. I was, however, quite emotionally drained by the time I left. Of particular poignancy to me was the short twenty minute film on the 80’s, shown in the auditorium
The film depicted the civil unrest of the time, and the events leading up to and during the declared state of emergency. It depicted a very violent, sadistic time. People rioting, and fighting. Police cracking down on them, generally using gratuitous force. It was distinctly unpleasant to watch, yet completely compelling. I couldn’t get up and walk away, despite the senseless acts.
It was poignant to me because I a child living in South Africa during this time, and knew nothing of these events.
I had a vague idea of this “state of emergency” thing. I vaguely understood that black people were treated differently to me, and other people with fair skin. At the time I had no idea that white people were doing those things to black people. Obviously, the state controlled media was doing a good job in those days.
I was appalled by and ashamed of my ignorance. Certainly as a child, I could have done nothing to alter these events but I still felt mortified about my past as I watched the film.

The Apartheid Museum was an emotional rollercoaster. It brought me to the verge of tears but, annoyingly, my male socialised conditioning blockaded the tear-ducts. It made me laugh out loud at the absurd pontifications of the apartheid government officials and politicians (those natives must carry passbooks, which provide a handy folder to store all of their documents, which they are liable to otherwise lose — being a careless bunch of barbarians and all). It made me feel very sombre. It made me feel very positive about South Africa.

We’ve come a long way. We’ve got a long way to go. At least we’re being honest about it.

Later, Angie and I discussed our feelings about the museum and we reckon that every politician currently in office should spend three hours at the Apartheid Museum. It’ll help them remember why they are in office in the first place, and what they should be trying to achieve there.

Return to Goblin’s Cove

Easter weekend. Angie and I booked two nights (Saturday and Sunday) at Goblin’s Cove. We’ve been there before. It was weird then. It’s still weird. But we like weird.
(I also note that imageshack has eaten the photos on the page that links to. Stupid imageshack).

This time, however, there was a freaky crazy psycho woman running the psychedelic coffee-shop. She didn’t like bees.
The way she pulled her raven-black hair back made her look very severe.
The way she carried around a can of insecticide and a lighter made her seem a little crazed.
The way she used the flame from the lighter and the spray from the compressed can of insecticide made her seem a little pyromanic.
The way she incinerated the bees dispassionately made her seem evil.

Then she closed in on the table near us, where bees were happily investigating the sticky tablecloth. They weren’t bothering us. Psycho-woman was, especially as she waved the can and lighter about.
Angie asked her to please leave the bees alone. She replied that she wouldn’t possibly think of setting them alight near us. She went away, and at least those bees were spared — for the meantime.
As we sat at the table in the open-air coffee shop, situated in a pleasant, tranquil forest, we were unsettled by the just noticeable, slightly sweet, slightly charcoal smell of heavily crisped bees. That smell, and the occasional sound of localised pressure changes in the distance as the oxygen was sucked from the air to help form a bee-apocalyptic fireball.

Everything else was pleasant though.

One of the waiters at the main restaurant (not the coffee-shop) took quite a liking to us. We rather liked him too. There was an instantaneous rapport between us. After lunch (which ended relatively late) he suggested we come visit. After all, he lived on the property, just next door to the restaurant.
So a little later we wandered over and visited our new friend Wikus. He was staying in a house that was designed and built by the same guy who’d put the insane architecture together for the Goblin’s Cove restaurant. We had a look around. Up the spiral stairway. On the creaky, uneven wooden floorboards. Holding onto ropes, because there were no railings where there should’ve been. Incredible place to live.
Wikus told us he was a little paranoid about living there because it had massive windows and no burglar bars, and a not entirely secure front-door. Wikus is originally from Joburg. That should explain it all.
We spent quite a while sitting there, drinking with him, chatting, smoking. Talking politics, talking religion, talking history, talking relationships, talking shit. The restaurant’s cook came over for a little too. Jaco was his name, I think. Wikus and Jaco are both of the age where the big bad old apartheid government conscripted them. Wikus did his national service and then 6 months later, they scrapped it. He never went any place too intense. Nothing too crazy happened. He thinks Afrikaaner nationalism is a little ridiculous, and they kicked him out of F.W. de Klerk’s office (where he was going to be a staff clerk) because he’d been bust possessing marijuana.
Jaco went to Angola. Jaco fought in a war, for something he thought was justified. Jaco seemed like a really pleasant guy (he joined us for about 20 minutes or so, before going to bed). I quite liked him, and I really liked his cooking, but one could see a level of distress underlying the surface. Demons lurking there.
It made me think about who was helping these people. On both sides of the struggle. People who fought in wars and did things they’d never dream of doing today. Who is helping these souls? Or are they just left in torment for the rest of their lives, forgotten by society. The dirty laundry that no-one wants to face up to, let alone clean.

Getting intense. Unintentional. Still, it was an excellent weekend and we met interesting people and experienced interesting things. We exchanged contact details with Wikus. I really hope we don’t let inertia stop us connecting again.

The Nature of Money a.k.a. I might be a commie

Dave (that’s Crazy Dave to some, but he’s not really crazy at all — he just pretends) sent me an interesting link the other day. It led me to the Open Money Manifesto.
If you find the manifesto a little heavy reading, try the motivational material for playing the open money simulation game.

Now, describing money as “open” is something that immediately grabs my interest, and runs off with it in a work-avoidance spree of work-hours inefficiency. This is because I like to think of myself as a minor advocate for open source software. It could be described as software socialism — or Buddhism for software (the corollary of open-source software for your brain). But I digress.

That whole lot got me looking into this concept of “community currency.” The community creates its own money for use within the community.
You don’t need any money to begin trading — the money is automatically created when the trade takes place. So someone get debited, and the other party to the transaction gets credited.
The “money” is really just information keeping track of who has traded, and how much.
The money doesn’t ever leave the community. This is what normally happens in today’s economy, resulting in extreme poverty in some areas, and extreme wealth in others — and the wealth is always flowing from the poor to the rich areas. This community currency thing stops that happening.

Those are just a couple of points. Read the linked articles for a better description.

On some investigation I discovered that such a network exists in South Africa. Check out the South African New Economics Network and its Community Exchange System for more info.

Some intriguing questions are raised by this system:
If everyone trades in the community currency, and thus never makes profit or actually earns anything, how happy will the tax-man be?
Can you inherit community currency (cc) from a deceased relative, even if you aren’t a member of the particular community?
Since one can start trading before having any credit, what measures are taken to prevent unscrupulous members of the community buying many goods and services, and then simply buggering off? They do mention something about this in the articles, but I think there may be more avenues for fraud here that haven’t been considered.

There we go kids.

Open Source. Open Religion. Open Money.

A co-operative society is the best way. Everyone shares everything — money, views, ideas, time, labour — and is tolerant of others.

What a nice place Utopia Land is.

Cross-hairs on Iran

I’m not looking forward to this one.

I draw your attention to this quote at the end of the article.

“It is absolutely parallel. They’re using the same dance steps — demonise the bad guys, the pretext of diplomacy, keep out of negotiations, use proxies. It is Iraq redux.” — Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism specialist, in Vanity Fair, on echoes of the run-up to the war in Iraq

I wonder what the final excuse for bombing Iran will be? WMD probably. I wouldn’t expect Dubya to feel the need for originality in his warmongering. Stick to the formula.

Execution Rate Down in Mad George’s Kingdom

Curiously, in the time of George Dubya, the USA are executing fewer people.
But don’t read about it here, read about it at the Mail & Guardian.

I’ll reproduce my favourite bit of the article to get you interested (emphasis is mine):

Quietly but unmistakably, the anti-death-penalty movement in America has started to win. … How can they be winning when America’s liberals are losing every other culture war? Certainly not by telling anyone that killing people is wrong. The argument they prefer to employ, activists say, is that America is killing the wrong people. Or it’s killing people the wrong way. Or killing them at the wrong price. America just isn’t killing people properly.