Update and Comments – 4 July 2021

What is there to say when we are once again under lockdown level 4 with all its crippling restrictions for many industries. The situation concerning Covid has been badly mishandled by the powers that be, who spend more time taking one another to court than sorting out the crisis raging in our country, and Gauteng in particular. Our politicians prove over and over again that they are totally incapable of planning for the future. Everyone knows that the health department is in a real mess with a shortage of skilled staff as well as enough functional hospitals. All this whilst around 200 newly qualified young doctors have yet to be given posts to complete their internship programme. Their knowledge would surely be able to help to alleviate the current chaotic situation.  Much of the problem has been caused by total mismanagement ever since the current government came into power, as well as the ongoing illegal pocketing of millions, if not billions of rand, which is rife throughout the entire country. Most municipalities countrywide are on the verge of bankruptcy. Tax money paid from the hard-earned incomes of frustrated citizens have been pocketed by corrupt individuals who have been entrusted with the running of their constituencies. A very sad and diabolical state of affairs.

All of the above is apart from the psychological strain being put upon many citizens due to having lost their jobs, being confronted with the loss of family members or friends due to the virus, and then hearing all the constant negative news reports.  What appears to be a strange situation is that within the crowded informal settlements, the incidence of Covid infections seems to be very low. Could this be due to the fact that so many poor people have always lived in very close proximity to each other and have thus developed extremely strong immune systems? Has this perhaps resulted in them creating their own herd immunity? It has been documented that ever since the virus raised its ugly head, and protocols regarding the wearing of masks and keeping social distancing were implemented, these were totally ignored in many of the poorer areas. One would have thus expected the numbers of casualties to be astronomic, and this does not appear to be the case. No doubt there will be some or other kind of study done regarding this phenomenon, so only time will tell if living in a crowded environment with all the challenges of surviving on or even below the poverty line can actually provide a protection against the Covid virus.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and comment – 30 July 2020

Many of us in the Southern Hemisphere are probably finding it pretty difficult right now to be full of the joys of Spring (well, it is in fact a very chilly winter’s day today, which doesn’t help matters), when all around we are being reminded of the Covid 19 pandemic. Even if we try very hard to concentrate on the positives in our lives, looking over our shoulder is that nasty little creature called reality reminding us that things are not the same as they used to be.

If one has children, and maybe even grandchildren, trying to put one’s worries and concerns about their health on the back burner, is an impossible task. If only we could put a blanket of safety over them all and keep them away from any risk of being infected, until the all clear is given by the powers that be. A pipe dream, but what an amazing thing it would be if that dream could become our new reality.

Then, in the midst of all this mayhem, something always seems to arrive to rock the proverbial boat. Why does the toilet decide to spring a leak, and a cupboard door collapse on its hinge? Is this a wake-up call from the universe to remind us that life still happens, despite the risk of attack by a vicious virus? Coping with these everyday household calamities just seems to be so much harder than in the days when our vocabulary was not dominated by words such as “cough”, “fever”, “mask”, “sanitizer” etc.

One of the worst occurrences though, at this challenging time was hearing that a family member had to face surgery with an overnight stay in hospital – when the pandemic is becoming worse by the day. No visitors are allowed, so that exacerbated the fear and stress concerning the operation. It has always been the norm for one to come around from any anaesthetic and find a partner or other relative at your bedside waiting for you to wake up. Thankfully, despite the surgery taking almost 3 hours, all went well and is now a thing of the past.

All that one can do is to try to be positive in these trying times and offer to be there to help in any way that is required when people have a need. Now, more than ever, human contact and emotional support (even if remote) is more important than it has ever been. In South Africa, the government has failed miserably to assist people who are desperate, not only to work and earn a living, but to be able to put food on the table for their family. Sadly, the bulk of those citizens who are desperate for food would still vote for the ANC despite the corruption, the lies and the lack of commitment to taking care of the poor.

So, the toilet will have to be fixed, as well as the cupboard door, and undertaking these mundane, irritating diy tasks will temporarily eliminate any thoughts of viruses and sanitizers. Without the necessary concentration and a steady hand, we will be faced with the expense of having to call in a professional handyman. Not an option at this time, so let’s get cracking and get the jobs done!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Motivation and Covid 19

I am beginning to wonder whether the last 5 months of lockdown, are responsible for my struggle with motivation. Is it all the diabolical rules and prohibitions which have been imposed by our wonderful government, who are not famous for their intellectual abilities, or the wearing of cloth masks? Every time I have to put on that mask, I know that my mental faculties are going to be strained to their absolute capacity.

Right at the beginning of lockdown, it was very frustrating having to stay at home and not being able to go about one’s life in the usual way apart from shopping for essential items. However, biscuit baking, sorting out problems around the home, contacting friends and family members as well as sending and receiving copious quantities of jokes via mobile phones were activities which resulted in a pleasant break from the hectic lives to which many of us were accustomed. That was fine for the first few weeks, but things have changed. Fewer biscuits are being baked, jokes have dwindled and have been replaced by political rantings, and motivation seems to have become somewhat of a challenge in many cases.

Self-motivation is not easy to achieve when one is surrounded by negativity, and due to this virus, we are constantly being bombarded from all sides with negative information. The numbers of confirmed Covid cases, the amount of deaths, the possibility of second outbreaks in various parts of the world are all factors which negatively affect us in our battle to feel positive and happy.  I, personally, have heard of way too many stories of people who have committed suicide over the past few weeks which, in my opinion, must be as a direct result of the pandemic and all its rules and restrictions, as well as for many, a feeling of total isolation and loss at not having visits from family members.

As I conclude this ramble, we are now in stage 2 of lockdown here in South Africa, but things are as crazy as ever. The government is now allowing the sale of alcohol only from Monday to Thursday from 9am – 5pm as well as permitting restaurants and shebeens (alcohol outlets found in townships as well as informal settlements) to serve it as long as no-one is out on the roads after 10pm every evening. This in the misguided belief that it will eradicate drunken driving, gender-based violence and hooliganism! Emphasis should rather be put on policing vulnerable areas, having regular roadblocks to find as many unlicensed drivers as possible and to arrest them all and impound their often unroadworthy vehicles. Maybe then there would be an improvement in behaviour as well as a reduction in the number of road accidents and the victims of violence.

Threatening to ban alcohol outright is a pathetic political attempt to turn what is supposed to be a democracy into a police state, whereas the police are failing left right and centre when it comes to controlling the horrendously high crime rates and many are themselves guilty of corruption and criminal activities.

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 The original reasons given by the government for the banning of the sale of alcohol, as well as tobacco products, was supposed to be to reduce health risks which may have caused more Covid 19 deaths. There has been absolutely no proof that this has been the case. What has happened through this stupid banning is that billions of rand in tax revenue has been lost along with the jobs of thousands if not millions of workers. Wine farms have gone bankrupt whilst illegal sales of both alcohol and cigarettes has created very lucrative blackmarket businesses. There is even speculation that certain politicians have themselves benefitted from such activities. A very clever move indeed, but that’s what we have come to expect these days! The virus has certainly been an eye opener if ever there was one!

I know that when I first started to blog, I stated that I did not intend to write anything political, but sometimes one has to vent a little bit of one’s wrath, and today is the day!

One thing is for sure, if one dwells too much on all the negative issues with which we are surrounded then it is almost impossible to be motivated. Therefore, it is time to listen to some meditation music, find a quiet, uninterrupted spot and focus on making sure that September turns into the most positive 2020 month so far!

“If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start
by lifting stones today. – African Proverb.

Update and Comments: 16 May 2020

The end of the world as we know it?

It is getting more and more difficult to stay positive here in South Africa during the lockdown and being isolated from family and friends. Unlike in other parts of the world, it seems to be more about turning the country into a police state than protecting the vulnerable. There are just way too many ridiculous rules being made with no explanation given as to the reasoning behind them. There is also an unacceptable level of violence being committed by those whose job it should be to protect the public. How are we meant to maintain sound mental health when we are bombarded constantly with distressing statistics and reports of violent behaviour.

Hundreds of South African schools have been vandalised, and in many cases set on fire, during the past few weeks of lockdown, and this is a country desperately in need of education. There is absolutely zero control over crime, and this has been the situation for years now. Currently many things have gone completely crazy, as the emphasis is on checking for illegal cigarettes and contraband alcohol, due to the ban of the sale of these products during lockdown. This kind of draconian control has no intelligent reasoning behind it. No-one had the common sense to consider that there should have been 24-hour armed surveillance at all schools whilst they were unoccupied. Instead, they became an easy target with laboratory equipment, computers, in fact anything the thieving swines could get their hands on was stolen.

The control is over the middle-income (not going to be middle-income for much longer) group as the poor do not heed such things as social distancing as it is not part of their culture. They are the ones who are suffering from food shortages due to so many employers being unable to continue with their businesses and being unable to pay their staff. Some will receive a smaller amount than their usual income from unemployment pay-outs, but this is likely to take quite a while to be implemented and people need to survive in the here and now. The government are proving to be totally inept when it comes to preventing hunger among millions of poverty-stricken individuals.

It has been so easy to convince the masses, mainly uneducated and usually totally illiterate, to always vote for the ANC, as for many they honestly think that Nelson Mandela has something to do with the party today. How very wrong can they be?

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Update and Comments: 18 April 2020 – Lockdown!

Lockdown

I heard the best ever reaction to our lockdown, from my 6 year old grandson. When he was told by his mother that our president had extended the period for our isolation, he apparently was absolutely thrilled, “Oh, great! I love lockdown. I wish we could always have lockdown!” The reason for this euphoria is all due to his parents devoting hours and hours (whilst they still have had to try to work from home) finding exciting and unusual ways to entertain two boys of 6 (going on 7) and 2 (going on 3)years of age.

I imagine that when this is all over, and we are able to return to some semblance of normality, the parents of these two children will breathe a united sigh of relief as they will probably be far less exhausted being back in their respective work environments than they are in their own homes right now. Everything from finger painting, building Lego, making a fort using their bunk beds as well as outdoor furniture, having an indoor obstacle course created for them, bouncing as a family on the trampoline, chasing around the garden, making muffins ….the list goes on and on. They are very lucky to be living in a home where there are parents who are able to give them this kind of attention and also where the fear of having no food to eat is not part of the equation.

At the other end of the continuum are the millions of poor families who suffer so badly whenever anything unexpected takes place. Whether this is bad weather, illness, a collapse in the economy resulting in job losses or, as is the current situation, a previously unknown epidemic, they are the ones who need to be remembered and helped wherever possible. Unfortunately, where a country has an almost collapsed economy the plight of millions of people becomes a bigger problem than the epidemic itself.  It is, however, heartening to hear of the extremely generous donations being made by people such as Nicky and Oppenheimer – R1 billion; Mary Oppenheimer and daughters  – R1 billion;  the Rupert family and Remgro Ltd. – R1 billion; the Motsepe family and associated businesses – R1 billion, as well as R1.5 billion donated by Naspers, part of which will go towards the Solidarity Response Fund established by the government to help limit the lockdown’s impact on the economy and those who are living in poverty.

As is so often the case, there are normal individuals who have put their hands in their pockets to give whatever they are able to afford, as well as giving time to assist where they can, for example sewing masks for local hospitals.   Radio stations have come on board together with big companies in trying to help those suffering the most but only time will tell just how bad the outbreak is going to be and how quickly all the informal workers as well as the self-employed can start working once again and avoid an even greater disaster than the pandemic itself.

The whole world is reeling from the shock of this epidemic and all we can do is to try to remain positive and to keep in touch with others who may be in isolation and alone. A phone call to say that you are thinking about them may make a big difference in their lives at this challenging time, just knowing that someone cares.

Wash your hands, sanitize, wear that mask if you go out, and more than that let’s all try to enjoy the day we have today and hope that tomorrow is here for us all and finds us well and still sane!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Racism

Racism

The attitude one shows when dealing with another person should never be based upon the colour of their skin, or the fact that they belong to another cultural group different to one’s own.  It should be about having respect for yourself and, in turn, respecting the other person, regardless of colour or creed. Anyone who is so full of hatred towards those who are different in any way to themselves and who are prepared to call another person a disgustingly insulting name could possibly be viewed as having some kind of a major personality problem. It doesn’t take much intelligence to realise that, when one insults or humiliates another, it produces very negative feelings not only for the targeted individual, but for the perpetrator as well.

The giving of positive feedback, or the praising of another person is actually of benefit to the one who has done the praising (albeit genuine and not a case of brown-nosing, or being patronising!)  It is the same as giving an unexpected gift to another person – who is it who really benefits from the action of giving? In many cases it is the giver, due to the unexpected and delighted response of the recipient!

Children are not born with preconceived ideas about anything, including the colour of a person’s skin. That is why, when they go to multi-cultural nursery schools and their parents ask them if there are Black, Asian or Mixed-race children in their class, the child often has no idea of what to answer. They themselves are not aware of the colour of their own skin.  They will often say that they have peach coloured skins and their friends have beige skin – if they are pushed to give an answer!

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Every now and again racism raises its ugly head worldwide, however, it is practically a pandemic in South Africa. This situation is obviously a smoke screen fanned by political parties to disguise the real issues which need to be addressed. These include unqualified, inept as well as corrupt government ministers and employees in various government run departments throughout the country, poverty, unemployment, ongoing corruption, a failing educational system, a totally inadequate government health service, an almost non-existent power utility as well as crime, horrendous numbers of road deaths due to the many unlicensed drivers, illegal immigrants – the list goes on and on, ad infinitum! Where politicians and the ruling party in general realise that they are failing in their duties, it is a way of trying to avoid any responsibility when they constantly relive the past and try to blame minority groups for all the country’s woes.

There will always be unpleasant people in the world, and it is almost impossible to avoid coming in contact with some of them. So, the fact that a person of another colour scowls and acts rudely might be part of their general make-up. We should perhaps look at the times when people of our own cultural group are rude to us and realise that we couldn’t label such behaviour as racism! We need to try to stop using the word “racism”, and face the fact that people by nature gravitate to spending time with others with similar backgrounds or points of view, or even those who speak the same language. Whether these groups of people happen to have the same colour of skin doesn’t mean that they are deliberately alienating other racial groups.

We should take a step backwards and observe small children in a playground setting who, as mentioned previously, give no thought to the colour of the skin of their playmates. They seem to gravitate to other children for various reasons, and it definitely is not due to their racial group. It could be that they feel comfortable around another child, because they enjoy playing with the same toys, have similar temperaments and do not feel threatened.

Perhaps we should follow the lead of our children and forget about colour and creed and enjoy interactions with other people based on commonalities such as interests and belief systems and finding the other person attractive in one way or another. Such attraction can be anything from admiring something they are wearing, their hairstyle, the friendliness of their smile, the tone of their voice or their body language, with no thought as to whether or not they have the same skin colour as we do. Much good could come of it and South Africans need to make a concerted effort to truly become that rainbow nation envisaged by the late, Nelson Mandela. However, it is a sad fact that the correct behaviour and attitudes in any kind of business or establishment come from the top downwards. This is a serious problem in this country right now due to the many uneducated, ignorant and often arrogant politicians supposedly leading the country who, by making unintelligent comments, are constantly setting unsavoury and totally unacceptable examples when it comes to cross cultural interactions.

One can only hope that all South Africans will eventually have a much less divided country once the current bunch of politicians become history and things change for the better. The country’s citizens can but try to stay positive despite all the negativity with which they are bombarded, via the media, on a day to day basis.

“If tolerance, respect and equity permeate family life, they will
translate into values that shape societies, nations and the
world.” – Kofi Annan

Winds of Change?

Introduction

I made the statement when I first began blogging that I would avoid writing about politics and religion as both these subjects tend to be extremely controversial.  However, the fact that I am passionate about people per se necessitates my having a slight change of heart.  My wish is to be able to express some feelings as well as to share my many positive experiences regarding my dealings with people from all walks of life. Some comments will, of necessity, be viewed as negative, but by the same token, I am not writing a fairy story. So, to my readers, I want to ask you not to look on this or the one or two follow-up postings as a political commentary, as this is not my aim at all. Rather, I would like this to tie in with future socially themed postings.

The entire world seems to be in chaos at present, but then hasn’t it always been to some extent? The past conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, the situation regarding Basque Separatism in Spain, a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Germany, Trump and his attitude towards the Mexicans (building a wall to keep them out), towards China, as well as his own government, the UK debacle over Brexit and the antagonism this appears to have caused in many sectors, not only in the UK but other countries as well – the list goes on and on. The fact is that, wherever there are human beings, there will always be discrimination and conflict of one kind or another, and this is fostered more often than not by the mouthings and actions of politicians suffering from a dose of verbal diarrhoea, and hoping to enhance their own often dubious image.

In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics”. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia – George Orwell

The current South African Situation

If one is living in South Africa then politics are part and parcel of every day life, and from the poorest to the wealthiest of people, everyone seems to be very quick to want to voice their own opinion.

The politicians are having an absolute field day in destroying the legacy left by Nelson Mandela. With Jacob Zuma in power for two terms, racial tensions became absolutely rampant. All the problem areas created by mismanagement of funds and blatant  corruption were blamed on the legacy of apartheid, and ultimately the fault of White people. The truth of the matter is that the majority of Black people have been neglected over the past 25 years since the new democracy came into being and have been denied even basic, never mind quality education, adequate health facilities and job opportunities. Billions of Rands which should have been allocated for all of these areas, have been stolen by thieving politicians and their lackeys. If one is unable to read or write, how easy is it then to be convinced by the rantings of politicians that all one’s woes are due to the greed of the White population.  Fostering this kind of attitude amongst the masses is frightening to say the least. By making false promises to illiterate people regarding job creation, improved health care and adequate housing is the way in which the ruling party manages to gain and retain the votes of the majority.

We are talking about mainly Black politicians, and those currently in power, actually not giving a damn about their own people. Millions of South Africans are frustrated as the realisation kicks in  that they have been given false hope regarding a higher standard of living and job opportunities. Schools and hospitals may have been inferior in the past and things were certainly not comfortable for the majority of South Africans   but many citizens did get educated and were able to read and write and had reasonable access to health facilities which is not the case in certain parts of the country these days. Keeping people ignorant and illiterate means that you can control them as they are totally reliant on the lies and garbage spewed out of the mouths of corrupt politicians. Blaming the Whites after all these years of independence just does not make sense any more and a large number of the population which includes many of the emerging black middle class would likely attest to this as well.

 

When skin colour is inconsequential

The truth of the matter is that, for many of us living in this country, the colour of one’s skin is actually irrelevant. It’s a fact of life that human beings choose to associate with others of similar belief systems, educational levels and, often, similar economic situations. Whether you live in Europe, Australia, America or Africa, people will always gravitate to groups within which they feel comfortable and at home.  Children are born not knowing prejudice and racism is something which is learnt and not inherent.  If youngsters are given the opportunity to make their own friends within a multicultural environment, they are likely to ignore the colour of the skin of their playmates, and start a friendship based on mutual attraction.

Since Nelson Mandela was released from jail, and became our first Black president, we have all been freed. (See my earlier posting dated 29 Nov 2018 and entitled “Those early days in South Africa”) Multi-racial marriages and relationships are evidenced in many areas and no-one bats an eyelid. Obviously there will always be those fringe bigots who, for whatever sick reason of their own, are disdainful of this integration, and have no intention of trying to change their unhealthy attitudes, but that’s life. Human beings are strange animals to say the least.

Nothing is more heartening than watching small children playing together, totally oblivious of any skin tone differences.  My own daughter was fortunate enough to have the advantage of being with children of other races for most of her school career – due to the change in policies in this country. She made friends with an African boy and they went through most of primary as well as high school together. After school they both pursued legal careers and their university years were spent at the same institution. When it came time to do their internship, both of them were handpicked by one of the most prestigious law firms in the country.  Despite her friend moving over to another company several years ago, they are still in touch with one another and their friendship has always been based on mutual respect and actually liking one another.

In politics stupidity is not a handicap – Napoleon Bonaparte

An experience of a lifetime

For many of us who remember the oppressive apartheid years, there were also many occasions where a person’s race was of no consequence. I would like to tell you about the following situation. My daughter wanted to do a speech about Nelson Mandela for a school project and had no idea how to get the relevant information. This was shortly after Nelson Mandela had been released from prison, so there was no googling to help her. When she told us about her choice of subject, her father actually suggested that we try phoning the ANC head office for help. She was only about 12 years old at the time, so I offered to do the phoning for her although I was very dubious about getting any help whatsoever.  Imagine my surprise when the phone was answered immediately and, when the person who answered heard what the call was about, gave me the home number of Walter Sisulu, who held the position of deputy president of the African National Congress.  I was flabbergasted as there is no way that during the years of the white Nationalist party being in power, anyone would have given out the home telephone number of any of the top dogs.

I rang the number and Mrs. Albertina Sisulu, his wife, herself answered. I explained about the speech and what my daughter needed to find out and I was told that she was busy cooking dinner for the family but if my little girl called at 7pm she would be able to help her.  True to her word, the conversation between the two of them carried on for about an hour and my daughter had the most incredible amount of information to put into her speech for which she got top marks. The point is this, that here was a woman who had fought for the rights of Black people her entire life, had been arrested on many occasions due to her political involvement  and had every right to be anti-establishment and perhaps even anti-white, prepared to help a young white girl with a school project. Colour was of no importance, it was about an adult with the necessary facts being prepared to help a child with a school project.  This is one of the many highlights of life spent  in South Africa over the years.

When Ma Sisulu (as she was affectionately known throughout most of her life, by many South Africans) died several years ago, there were many tributes to her being posted in the local newspapers. I felt that I had to add my bit, and wrote a short letter describing my experience, regarding the communication between me, the lady in question and my daughter. I was thrilled when I saw that my letter had been published but what happened next took me totally by surprise.  A day or two later I received a call from one of the top television studios in the country asking me to appear on a popular afternoon show in honour of Albertina Sisulu. The presenter had asked her production team to try to get hold of me and somehow they had managed to locate my contact details.  My daughter at the time was on secondment at a legal firm in London. It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I accepted the invitation and, through linking up via satellite with my daughter, she was able to recount her memories of her conversation with Ma Sisulu as well. What an absolute privilege that proved to be.

From the moment I arrived at the television studios, I was the only White person there.  From the young woman who met me, to the well-known presenter of the talk show, to the technicians – all were Black people.  I was looked after amazingly and the entire experience is one which I will never forget. The only fly in the ointment was my make-up for the programme. When I looked in the mirror, I was a bit disturbed to say the least, but who am I to know what makeup must be like for a live broadcast.  I realised later that it may have been the first time that the make-up artist had to sort out a white face. I looked horrendous, but for the partially sighted, my voice sounded great – and my daughter was live from London, so the make-up for her wasn’t an issue! All in all yet another situation where colour was totally irrelevant. A true feel good experience all round.

I have so many other incidents and anecdotes which I intend to add under this subject heading in the coming weeks, and hope they will be positively received by you, the reader.

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