Category Archives: Me

On UFS brutality: No peace without justice

justice

“Justice requires not only the ceasing and desisting of injustice but also requires either punishment or reparation for injuries and damages inflicted for prior wrongdoing. The essence of justice is the redistribution of gains earned through the perpetration of injustice. If restitution is not made and reparations not instituted to compensate for prior injustices, those injustices are in effect rewarded. And the benefits such rewards conferred on the perpetrators of injustice will continue to “draw interest,” to be reinvested, and to be passed on to their children, who will use their inherited advantages to continue to exploit the children of the victims of the injustices of their ancestors. Consequently, injustice and inequality will be maintained across the generations as will their deleterious social, economic, and political outcomes.”

― Amos Wilson

Watching the racial dynamic cluster-fuck that is unfolding at our former White-only universities in South Africa feels like a kind of national de-ja-vu; the revisitation of the ghosts of apartheid. White brutes beating Black protesters in an attempt to protect their privileged way of life even as the legitimate demands of the working class become un-ignorable.

Land, fees, language, inequality…IMHO all of these boil down to a lack of adequate reparation and restitution at 1994. Too much fake kumbaya, too little real redistribution. As an artificial group ‘selected’ and ‘glorified’ by apartheid, White people did not offer up an unqualified admission of guilt and of unlawful enrichment as apartheid ended. Forgiveness was offered before it was asked for. Looking back over the last few years, or looking ahead at the elections to come, the topic may change but the tune is the same – people that have been consistently fucked over by colonialism, apartheid and now a self-enriching elite are eventually saying “Enough is enough, we also want a dignified existence.”

I cannot see how there can be true forgiveness and reconciliation without justice and reparations. There can be no sustainable peace and shared prosperity without justice.

 

Links I liked (and some personal reflections)

rise

  • Taylor, N. 1989. Falling at the First Hurdle: Initial encounters with the formal system of African education in South Africa. Research Report #1. EPU. (via JET Education). – an old but important report that is not in the public domain yet (as far as I’m aware) – thanks JET for scanning this.

  • Improving learning in primary schools of developing countries: A meta-analysis of randomized experiments” – Patrick McEwan (2015) (via Servaas van der Berg).
  • The independent Task Team led by Prof John Volmink, which was appointed to look into the ‘jobs-for-cash’ scandal exposed by CityPress last year, has found that SADTU has a ‘stranglehold‘ over the State in provinces such as the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. These scandals sometimes turn deadly when the ‘right’ candidate is not appointed. On this topic I would highly recommend Gabi Wills’ new article “Informing principal policy reforms in South Africa through data-based evidence.” To give you the highlight: The cohort of principals that are currently in the system are, on average, much older than they were in the past meaning that there is soon to be a wave of principal retirements. Whereas in 2004 only 17% of principals were aged 55yrs+, in 2012 that figure was 33%! If these principals retire at 60 this means that between 2012 and 2017 there will be about 7000 principal replacements! (remember there are only about 24,000 public schools in SA).
  • This latest report shows that the South African Council of Educators (SACE) is a toothless dog, as I have argued before. Earlier this year SACE ran their own investigation into the exact same jobs-for-cash scam and could not find “a single bit of evidence” that there was corruption in the appointment of teachers and principals in SA. Subsequently CityPress has claimed SADTU ‘told SACE to end their investigation” after the names of top SADTU officials started cropping up in the investigation. So how is it that SACE ran an investigation on the same issue at the same time and found no evidence while Volmink’s team found multiple examples of corruption, and 13 of the cases were so strong that they could already be passed on to the police? Go figure. Minister Motshekga needs to put a target on SACE and reform the entire organization. It is rotten through and through.
  • Holstee have come up with a set of 10 questions to ask yourself about the year that was. Reflection. Contemplation. Good stuff.
  • I’m re-reading Henri Nouwen’s “Reaching Out” – the book where he outlines his understanding of spirituality from the Christian perspective. It’s lovely, not too preachy or crispy-clean / three-bags-full-sir Christianiaty which I have little tolerance for. One quote:

“When loneliness is haunting me with its possibility of being a threshold instead of a dead end, a new creation instead of a grave, a meeting place instead of an abyss, then time loses its desperate clutch on me. Then I no longer have to live in a frenzy of activity, overwhelmed and afraid of the missed opportunity” – Anonymous in Nouwen’s Reaching Out p35

All models are wrong but some are useful.

— George Box (via Farnam Street Brain Food)

I am really enjoying poetry for the first time in a long time…

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T.S. Elliott

Also Pablo Neruda.

It was also my birthday last month which started in tears and ended in champagne with a view! Ad Astra Per Aspera!

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Photo credit: Michael Chandler (@MrChandlerHouse)

On being celebrated, not tolerated.

authentic

Right now I am sitting in a café in San Francisco and contemplating life listening to Asaf Avidan and Passenger Official. Generally speaking I normally love psycho-analysis and probing questions, but when I’m travelling this past-time takes on new forms of intensity – it feels like I cannot escape the onslaught of questions about things like the meaning of life, the definitions of culture, the sources of creativity, and finding one’s vocation. Personally I find inherent joy in reflecting on my life and experiences and trying to understand who I am and why. Today the questions were of the punchy variety, questions like:

  • What do you want to be?” (happy);
  • Who do you want to be?” (myself),
  • What do you want to do?” (fix education).
  • Where do you want to live?(…)

But the last one stumped me for a while. The first three were really easy to answer if only because I’ve reflected on them at length before. But the location one took a while. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to decide between a bunch of post-PhD (2015) options at the moment, ranging from a single post-doc in the U.S. to research visits at multiple universities in America (Boston, NYC, San Francisco, Michigan), a fellowship in Paris or staying on in Cape Town. I know my work will always focus on Africa and ultimately I couldn’t live long-term outside of South Africa (or at the very least a developing country) but the question was still quite puzzling for me. Then I remembered a quote that instantly became my answer:

Go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated.

This quote has been a guiding motif in my life ever since I embraced the fact that I am gay. It helped me make one of the most difficult, defining, and important decisions in my life: leaving the church, which I did around this time last year. Thank God I did – I would’ve died if I stayed in it. As most people already know, growing up gay in a hegemonically straight world can be difficult, no matter where you are born. To do so in a country where colonial patriarchy is systemic and ignorance fuels the fire of homophobia is even worse. But the real trifecta is if you get all three: (1) straight hegemony, (2) colonial patriarchy and (3) religiously-induced homophobia. Then you are fucked (proverbially speaking). Of course none of this holds a flame to those who have all of these and also the compounding factors of  poverty, an intolerant culture or familial rejection. Theirs are the stories that make us shake our heads in horror and shame, wondering how in 21st century South Africa a girl can be “correctively raped” by straight men, strangled to death and left with a toilet-brush in her vagina for the horrific crime of being lesbian.

My experiences of micro-aggressions are negligible by comparison. Yet for me they are real. It’s not fun having the church strip away what little dignity the world has left you. In any event, it was this time last year that I got the mental composure to ask myself why the hell I was willingly subjecting myself to the ongoing disdain of the religious establishment. The fact that church leaders have “good intentions” doesn’t change the fact that they made me feel like a second rate citizen who was depraved and sick for something over which I have no control. As CS Lewis has said “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” Sometimes outright hate is preferable to pious pity.

So now I don’t stick around if I’m tolerated. Why would anyone do that? This has been an important factor in deciding to live in Cape Town rather than Stellenbosch, even though I’m still studying at Stellenbosch. The dominant culture in Stellenbosch is conservative, White, Afrikaans culture that is subversively and insidiously homophobic (and White). I work with amazing people who I love and feel completely accepted by, but we live in cities, not offices.  I think everyone should – as far as it depends on them – try and find the place where they are celebrated, not just tolerated. I never felt that in the church. Ever. So I left and I’m so so happy I did. I’d encourage anyone else who is in the same position I was to do the same. Yes, you will have existential angst and many of the cards come toppling down with the move, but they really aren’t cards you want to build your life on – conditional acceptance, cloaked-disdain, false certainty. Sometimes you have to go with the truth, even though there is less certainty

Go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated. 

x

Roundup of Easter…

  • My Masters thesis is now available online. Equity & Efficiency in South African primary schools : a preliminary analysis of SACMEQ III South Africa Although I suspect most people say this, it really is interesting and accessible 🙂
  • Wonderful and insightful article on “The Law’s Majestic Equality” which opens with a quote from Anatole France “The majestic equality of the laws prohibits the rich and the poor alike from sleeping under bridges, begging in the streets and stealing bread” – stimulating read which reminds me of Deuteronomy 1:17 “You shall not be partial in judgement. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgement is God’s” Also see Exodus 23:8 and Deuteronomy 16:19. I think I am going to try and include this in my lecture on social policy and inequality.
  • Great Article by Ferial Haffajee on the state of SA’s self-narrative. Attention ANC: We are a serious country with serious potential.
  • Economist article from last year titled “Schooling the whole family: Teaching is improving but slowly. Getting parents involved could speed things up”. So many parallels between Mexico and SA. Many useful ideas in here for discussion and thought-experiments…
  • Jonathan Jansen writes a short article on “Seven costly mistakes” [in SA education since the transition] – mostly just common sense, but people like to listen to him.
  • Charming 2 minute video on organ donation – “Pass it on when you’re done with it” then register to become an organ donor here – it takes 3 minutes and you could drastically improve someone’s quality of life!
  • Innovation in US higher education – the birth of a new Ivy League university “Minerva University” (Economist article) which has as its motto “Critical Wisdom”. We really do need (more ) innovation in higher education across the board.
  • Top ten of urban businesses – sensible futuristic thinking like increasing data use in/by cities and the proliferation of ‘community nodes’ which act as “cafes, wireless work stations, libraries, book stores and micro farmers markets”

Awesome images (3)

Awesome images (2)

That’s true, nobody said it was easy, but somehow we have this notion ingrained in our public consciousness – life is not supposed to be so difficult. Um, ya…fail – it is. Whenever something bad happens or life isn’t just a box of chocolates, we think that’s not normal – reality check – it is. Life is difficult. Life is hard. Pain is necessary for growth. We need each other and we need God. So the next time I start hitting the slippery parts of this track of life I’m going to tell myself: ‘Nobody said it was easy’ but I’m going to add another phrase: ‘but it is worth it‘.

image from Workisnotajob

Awesome images (1)

So today I discovered: workisnotajob. It’s a wonderful smorgasboard of creativity. I was practically clicking my heels as I went to work today after I discovered the awesome site. You really should check it out. Seriously. So I’ve decided that for the next week I’m going to post at least one image a day (from Workisnotajob) with a very brief comment of my own.

I hope you like it.

Here goes…

There are a few things that I am sure of in this life.

I know that people are more important than possessions.

A life filled with meaningful relationships is full and organic whereas a life filled with possessions is hollow and static.

Openness trumps secrecy. Always.

Life without God is not only meaningless, it is largely unmanageable (if you haven’t got to the unmanageable part, just wait).

Technology and the Internet are an integral part of the future – dismiss them at your peril.  

Life without learning is is like drinking the best wine in the world and thinking it tastes the same as an Al-Cheapo no-name brand.

So yes, I agree with the picture. The future does belong to the few willing to distinguish sense from nonsense.