Monday, 9 December 2013

Dancing on the streets of Soweto


OK – so I had a long post for November with jokes and happy things and tidings but I was lazy and forgot to post it and now its December and things happened.

Also - before I get morose I want y'all to know that there is an awesome local podcast by Melbourne fella Miles about film, film reviews and movies and movie related stuff (I may or may not contribute to it *winkwinknudgenudge*) at www.mustlovefilm.com - its super informative, simple, clean, and real cool, listen to it folks!!! you'll learn heaps, I know I did.
As you know, I normally don’t do serious pieces, even my pope piece was a lame attempt at angry people humour that frankly, prompted a Christina blogger to attempt to get me to follow his blog in the hopes of, I don’t know, softening me?

He failed in garnering my interest because there were no pictures of unicorns and dragons, I mean, come on.
But last week and important, probably the most important human being in our generation passed away and I kind of wonder what that actually means.

Madiba was a world hero, but his passing marks the end of an era that remembered a time in our recent memory where real, genuine, concrete injustice and cruelty occurred.
His life's work was this genuine fight against real oppression, not the butt-hurt, demands to check one's privilege on tumblr and youtube that seem to get so much social media attention and frankly, do little to create positive effect on our new online culture, let alone IRL.

Because I can genuinely look at some people who keep screaming about their desire to have their trans-kin-colourism respected and recognised and I always sit there and wonder – 'are these weird first world problems? or are these genuine concerns?'
I can't even begin to talk about how genuine his struggle and how inspiring his life was.  Go to BBC, watch the documentaries, in particular a documentary called the Long Walk of Nelson Mandela by NITV.

I think he's also personally touched a lot of lives, not just in South Africa, but world-wide.
Which sort of leaves me wondering, what exactly does he mean to me, on a personal level? (does he need to have an effect on me on a personal level? not really to be honest)

He's an inspiration indeed, a man who was a rebel, a revolutionary, a fighter, who also evolved as a human being, who was willing to do anything for his cause but later learnt that compassion and understanding would do more for his cause than violence.
That's hard to swallow, I can see why the ANC doubted him for a while, I can even see how Winnie may have lost faith in him back then. 

And its easy to look back on his history and agree that what he did was the right thing to do and that he chose the path of the righteous man.  It didn’t seem like that, he once supported violence, its what many apologists keep pointing out when the media and his fans gush about how admirable a man Mandela was.  But he changed and with that change of perspective he succeeded in bringing to South Africa a peace it so sorely needed after decades of horrendous oppression, cruelty and violence.
Its also a kind of cruelty we cannot even begin to fathom.  We still have racism, bigotry and injustice but seeing old photos of whites only signs on streets and public facilities is just horrendous and mind boggling in ways that simply cannot be explained nowadays.  Even a hard-core racist can't sit there and happily justify apartheid without being uncomfortably aware (they may not care but they know it's not a popular way of thinking) of how awful they may sound by justifying it.  Which is why they act like apologists and try to find some sham justification for their stupid ideas.

At it hits me hard because it could have easily been a part of my life, but it wasn’t, so I don’t get what makes me strangely confused about the depth of my emotion, and why there's a small part inside of me that takes this so very, very personally.  In the end, I was lucky, this is not my history and that's something I am grateful for.
For someone who grew up in a country that was quite homogenous, I never really got race except as a label that was as superficial as saying that you liked tomatoes.  Growing up in Spain; straddling the Spanish, English and Filipino divide, I never felt like ethnicity or even skin colour were particularly big deals except in the aesthetic sense.  I never even puzzled why my mother was so much darker than me (her explanation was that she drank coffee and I drank only milk back then, ok, mind you, I was 3 years old).

The implications of what it meant to have a white South African father didn’t even register until I was a teenager, but that was because I lived such a full life with my mother that a not having a paternal figure alone was very far from my mind. 
But one day my mother explained racism to me.  She explained that it was racism why some teachers looked at me funny when I talked about my home life, or when children didn’t want to play with me because I was dirty, ugly and Chinese (as a kid I didn’t get it, I was more angry that they weren’t listening to me when I said I wasn’t Chinese and that I was Filipina and damnit I showered every day) and that yes, it was difficult being a foreign female who had to work a ga-jillion times as hard in a country that was extra racist and extra sexist, but hard work and guts and grit will let you achieve anything.

Even then though, I find it hard to understand.  I simply couldn’t fathom how anyone would be so silly as to dislike anyone for anything other than maybe thinking that Dragon from St. Seiya was the coolest zodiac knight (I took that one personally, he was a douche). 
After all, I lived next door to a Chinese restaurant, I spoke perfect Spanish, I had a British accent and why the hell would you not think it was cool to be able to make fun of people in different languages (especially Tagalog).

Skin colour was stupid, you just drink more coffee or coca cola and Bob's your uncle, you're black. Besides, its just skin , it gets all pink and purple and red and wrinkly and if you're covered with enough mud (especially as a kid), you're all frigging brown.
And it was only later that I understood the implications of my mum's jokes about my dad and why she didn't marry him.  Social justice was probably low on the list, but I only realised them until later.

Would my parents have been arrested upon return to SA? would I have been sent away? seen as a product of not just a socially undesirable, but also an illegal union?
Never mind the fact that now that I am older I am aware that when mum joked, 'your father's mother literally had a heart attack on the phone' wasn’t actually funny when you think about it.  At first I thought, aww geez dad, poor grandma…

now its just… aww geez, my grandma is racist and had a heart attack because of me (and mum). 
Its mind boggling.  For someone like me its just incredible to think about.  My father's family would have despised my mother and me and that just blows my mind.

In my blood there flows the blood of cruelty and bigotry and the more I think about it, the weirder I feel. 
I mean we could day that about all our ancestors (I guess if I go far enough G-daddy Gengis Khan, was doing some really, really questionable things with his… er… swords, and all the Conquistadores are fucking a-holes of the nth degree) but this feels recent.  It feels so, strange and so foreign to a person like me. 

It was the last years of apartheid though, we probably wouldn’t have experienced that much drama, although there may have been some awkward Christmas lunches I guess.
Maybe my paternal family would have eventually learned to like mum and me, who knows.  As the ghost of apartheid faded, maybe it would feel less strange to have a mixed race grandchild, but it would have been a 'thing' damnit if that doesn’t make my head (and heart) hurt. 

I remember meeting a girl in Uni who was also South African, her mother gave her up for adoption because she was, back then, a member of the ANC at the time and she had to be given up for adoption for her own safety.  Her adoptive mother was also South African, an activist lawyer who also supported that anti-apartheid cause and she grew up happy with her new family and remains close to her biological mother now that time has managed to smooth over the scars of the past. 
I've also met plenty of white South Africans who are genuinely wonderful, beautiful people.  But looking at them I keep seeing a shadow of that possible life I could have had and wonder, were you a part of this strange system? did your parents think that what happened was ok? did you NEED TO BE TAUGHT THAT RACISM IS UNACCEPTABLE? DID YOU NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU THOUGHT?

Again, it boggles my brain.  I get it at a psychological level, at an intellectual level, I get their bigotry, I understand this weird idea of needing to exclude a people for X reasons, but wow, it's just such a weird thing to do.
So here is Madiba, a very ordinary human man who wanted nothing but justice for his people, justice against the people like those my father came from, someone who I can totally get behind and understand and like and hell, even relate to on a small level. 

He is amazeballs.  Seriously.  He is an incredible human being.
He forgave the people who imprisoned him for nearly 30 years.

Think about it.
30 YEARS

30 YEARS of imprisonment and generations of racist cruelty.
And he shook hands with De Clerk and genuinely liked him and forgave all those people.

Watch his presidential inauguration, it is bizarre.  He shakes hands with the general who enacted the systematic violent oppression of his party and his people, who personally persecuted his wife.  And there he is, happy and thankful and smiling and willing to listen and move slowly because not everyone can accept change easily and he totally gets it.
Can you believe it, he understood and got the fear that fuelled this racism and he nurtured it and coddled it until it was ready to go away.

Sorry, what. the. fuck.
This man is a saint. 

Men like him are a once in a generation type.  We cannot hope to have anyone in this generation to have the same euphorically inspiring effect that he had on so many people.
I can only hope to have half the integrity he had in his left pinkie.  I hope everyone aspires to have at least as much integrity as he had in his left pinkie.

If we could all be like Madiba's left pinkie, I think we'd have world peace.  And the Asari would totally dig us (and then I'd have to get over my discrimination of Asari, seriously boring omni-gender blue people is boring).  And there's my cheesy humor again.
Rest in peace – there's a theory that you are a modern age Bodhisattva.  I cant argue with that and it makes me feel even more privileged to have lived in your time.  I may have been to young to understand what an effect you have had on my life, but by your actions, you have definitely been a part of it in some convoluted way.

I thank you from the bottom of our planet's cesspool of a heart.
Enjoy your sky-pie and say hi to Luther Vandross and Da Vinci for me.


Lots of love
T

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