Monthly Archives: November 2012

Being better

Sitting in a restaurant in an upmarket area of Joburg with a friend last week, she made the comment that we seemed to be surrounded by rich people, and that it was making her feel intimidated.  Why do we feel like having more money makes you a better person?

What does it mean to be better than someone else?  I think this is a meaningless concept.  Someone can be richer than you, more attractive than you, more intelligent, more charming, have more friends, be more virtuous, etc. but does any of these qualities equate to being somehow better, or more worthy?

The all-too-easy to forget fact is that while people like to believe they are responsible for their own success, this is seldom true.  Most of us are simply a product of the opportunities available to us as a result of the time and place we were born in.  I am healthy, intelligent, attractive, educated, well-read and well-travelled.  For this I have to thank my parents for the gift of their genetic material and for being white, educated and middle-class in a time and place when being so meant you could raise your children to the life I am currently living.

Although I didn’t squander my opportunities, I also cannot boast to have made the best possible use of them.  I did not rise from the middle classes to become a captain of industry, a ground-breaking scientific researcher, a famous novelist or artist.

The same can be said of most of the people we meet.  I wish someone would tell the Republicans, the Tories and the Conservatives that.

Advertisements

Passing for straight

I went on a walking tour exploring the gay and lesbian history of Hillbrow last weekend.  It was awesome (yo Gabriel).  The tour covers an area of Joburg that I would never normally visit and I really did learn a lot of things I’d never suspected before.  My girlfriend went with me and so did two friends of ours, a male gay couple.  The other people on the tour, a lesbian and a gay man, were strangers to us.

As we neared the end of the tour, they both commented on how strange it was that we were so interested in gay people, and were surprised when I told them that all four of us were gay and were in fact couples.  Now I’ve been told before that I “don’t look like a lesbian”, and that my girlfriend and I both present as “quite feminine”, so their surprise didn’t come as a big shock to me.

It does make me sad that in order to feel like you belong in the gay community you’re expected to adopt the “gay uniform”.  Being gay is an important part of my identity, but it’s far from the most important part, and when I make choices about my appearance I don’t think about wanting to “look straight”, or about wanting to “look gay” for that matter.  To be honest, when I go clothes shopping the most important consideration is comfort, followed by price, followed by the need to cover all the wobbly bits.

If you make judgements about people based on their appearance you should be prepared to be surprised a lot.

Chessboxing

Ever heard of chess boxing?  Don’t worry if you haven’t — you’re in distinguished company, as I only heard of it this morning when I saw it on someone’s wall.  Rounds of boxing are interspersed with intervals of chess playing — a workout for the body and the mind.

I suppose I could get more excited about this if I didn’t think hate boxing so much.  I’ve always thought there’s something a little sick about enjoying watching one human being the crap out of another one.  And since boxing causes brain damage, it seems like a bad joke to combine it with something that requires concentration and strategic thinking skills.

More reasons to hate the Gautrain

So the Gautrain hasn’t quite got its timetables sorted out yet.  On the weekends it runs at half-hour intervals, but these intervals don’t necessarily coincide with the published schedule.  Because of this I often arrive at the station about 20 minutes before the next train.  The Gautrain station platforms don’t have seats.  This is because the stations are modelled after European stations, and are designed to discourage vagrants looking for a place to sleep.  This is despite the fact that the Gautrain is one of the most heavily guarded places in the country and is locked up tight at night, making it impossible for anyone without a ticket to gain access.  This is also despite the fact that commuters have to wait up to 40 minutes for a train, whether they’re elderly or disabled or tired or drunk or whatever.

So I pass the time spent waiting for the train by walking up and down the platform, and occasionally climbing the stairs.  I find this to be much more bearable than standing in one place, and it really seems to help make the time pass faster.  The only problem is, the security guards hate it.  They just don’t seem to understand it.  It bugs the shit out of them.  As example, I offer up the exchange I enjoyed today on the Hatfield station platform:

Security guard:  Are you lost?

Me (incredulous at the idea of getting lost on a station platform):  Excuse me?

Security guard:  Did you lose something?

Me:  No.

Security guard:  Will you please go wait over there?

Me:  Why?

Security guard:  So that you can be ready for the train.

Me:  The sign says the train is expected in 9 minutes.  Why should I wait that long over there?

Security guard:  In case perhaps the train leaves in 5 minutes.  (She really did say this.  Her first language is not English.)

Me:  Why would the train leave earlier than scheduled?

Security guard:  Just go stand over there.

Me:  Why?

Security guard:  So that you can relax.

Me:  Is there some kind of rule against walking down the platform?

Security guard:  No.

Me:  Why are are harrassing me?  Have I done something wrong?

Security guard:  No.

Me:  Good.  Please leave me in peace.

This happens often.  I really really hate the Gautrain.

Don’t worry kids, I have the solution right here..

Apparently the ANC Women’s League feel that women aren’t ready to lead out country.  At least, so says Clara Ndlovu, Mpumalanga provincial secretary.  She used this statement to justify the Women’s League’s support of President Jacob Zuma for another term as ANC president.  Spokesperson Troy Martens, trying to put Ndlovu’s comments into context, promptly proceeded to add insult to injury:

“We say the time is not right currently, not because we don’t have capable leaders, and we believe South African society is maturing to a point where being led by a woman is acceptable.  However, the women’s league currently needs to assist in healing and unifying the organisation and we believe at this point continuity will assist in achieving this goal, rather than bringing another candidate to the fore and creating further rifts in our organisation.”

Some people may find this to be a depressing sign of just how long a way women still have to go in this country.  I say, nonsense!  Why do we need women when we can have cats?!?  Look at Hank the Cat, who came third in the Virginia Senate race.  Hank decided that in these troubled times he had no choice but to stand for office.  Hank has always been a fighter:

Born to a single mother living on the streets, Hank, his mother, and his siblings were taken to an animal shelter and sat on death row.  Shortly before their execution, Hank and the rest of his family were saved by an animal rescue group called Animal Allies.  Hank was adopted to a loving family, and was raised by his adopted brother Sammy. 

Being from the streets and having nothing, Hank learned the value of hard work.  Putting himself through school while working, Hank was simply too stubborn and driven to let his disadvantages dictate his future.  After graduating with honors, Hank quickly entered the business world and brought himself up to start and run a number of successful local companies.

Hank’s story and dedication have inspired all who know him, and he realized that his ideas and unique life experiences could help his community, his state, and his country.  After much encouragement, Hank decided to enter the race for US Senate.

Hank even managed to garner the essential celebrity endorsement – on 30 August Homer the Blind Wonder Cat, star of the New York Times bestseller Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, endorsed Hank for senate.  Not surprisingly, Virginia dogs felt so threatened by his bid that they moved to form a dog super-PAC, which wasted no time in releasing the obligatory attack-ad:

Hank, an independent, won 6,000 votes, coming third after Democrat Timothy M Kaine (1.9million votes) and Republican George F Allen (1.7million votes).  Hank’s website is worth a visit.  He blames his defeat on Duverger’s Law, the first part of which states that “a plurality-rule election system tends to favor a two-party system”.  Yes, Hank is no one’s fool, and his site is well worth a visit for the articles.

The good news is that I have two little home-grown candidates right here.  They are sleeping down by my feet at this very moment, in fact.  If we can’t get a half-way decent candidate to stand for office in this country, and let’s face it, we haven’t managed it yet, then I say it’s time to look to our cats!  At least then the worst we’ll have to look forward to will be the inquiry into where the dead mouse that’s stinking up the house was hidden.

Western foot-binding

Don’t ask me how, but I stumbled across this the other day:  15 of the Ugliest Celebrity Feet.  These poor women have spent a lifetime torturing themselves by walking in impossibly uncomfortable and unhealthy shoes, and are now clearly living in pain.  The very shape of their feet have been distorted.

When are women going to stop doing this to ourselves?  Yes, high heels are sexy, even to me.  But they wouldn’t be sexy if we start seeing them for what they are: a modern western form of foot-binding.  No one looks at a bound foot anymore and finds it sexy, even though for millions of people it used to be the height of eroticism.  It’s time high heels went the way of the bound foot.

By expecting women to walk around in heels all day, even and especially to work in them, we are ensuring that they can never carry out their work in comfort, as a man expects to do.  A woman can never get to her destination as fast as a man can, and she must make sure to stay off grass and avoid paved or cobbled areas.  Her whole day is planned around the fact that she will be effectively handicapped.

The internet is an abundant source of information on the terrible effects of wearing heels, but I think this blog and this video are worth checking out first.  Particularly sobering is the finding, talked about in the NYT post, that the body is negatively impacted after even a single day of heel-wearing.

One would think that seeing photo’s of the debilitating physical consequences of high heels would shock some sense into us.  Instead, we laugh at the victims.  Shame on us.

Four more years!

I burst into tears this morning while listening to Romney’s concession speech.  And then again while listening to Obama’s victory speech.  It was like the world was breathing a collective sigh of relief all day long.

I keep on telling myself the Republicans won’t be able to win another election after this, not unless they do a complete 180.  They’ve completely alienated women, people of colour, lgbt people, anyone, in fact, who is not an old white man.  And I don’t think they can win them back.  Let’s hope.