POWER FAILURE: LIGHTS ARE ON BUT NOBODY’S HOME

[LISTEN]

Take a trip to Nairobi, Kenya and you will find a country at war with itself where political contest continues to be a zero-sum game. Next to them in Kampala Uganda even the right to protest is under threat so, citizens and politicians wear red headbands instead.Or you can go across to Togo over Benin in the west and find multitudes of people protesting 50 years of autocratic rule or fly a take a short flight to Nigeria to find a country divided with a people still seeking cessation – Biafra calls. Next door to them in Cameroon hundreds have died in protest against a controlling government. If you like, drift placidly down to Zimbabwe where citizens have resigned themselves to their fate – President Robert Mugabe for life. Or glance up to South Sudan where millions cross the border daily seeking refuge from a hailstorm of bullets flooding their homes. Let your eyes settle for a moment in the Democratic Republic of Congo which has been in the grip of a low-level civil war since King Leopold the second of Belgium declared it his personal property. The landscape is littered with people who are in pain displaced in their own countries because even though the lights are on – there is no one home. There’s no one to listen. There is no compassion or empathy. No sense of duty except, the duty to explicitly self-enrich at the expense of all others. Greed is killing people.

Everything seems set in stone until…

Someone comes along who does something remarkable. His name. Jose Pepe Mujica. Ironically described by the media as the poorest president in the world. In an interview with Al-Jazeera’s’ Lucia Newman in 2013, the 82-year-old former president who served  Uruguay between from 2010 and 2015 …. sips bitter tea, in a small living room barely large enough to fit a TV crew and decorated with shelves full of books which he shares with his wife and a three-legged dog. He speaks like somebody we know

“No. I’m not a poor president,” he said. “Poor are those who describe me as poor. My definition of poor is those who need too much because those who need too much are never satisfied. I am frugal, not poor”

Which means he’s economical about how he spends his money, giving  90 percent of his salary back into public service.

“Frugal with a light suitcase. I live with little, just what’s necessary. Not too tied down to material things. Why? so that I can have free time. For what? to do what I like.Freedom is having time to live. Living Frugally is a philosophy of life but I’m not poor. I have a way of life that doesn’t change because I’m president.

I earn more than I need even if it’s not enough for others. My wife is a senator and she has to contribute a lot to her party. But her salary is enough for us to live. And we still have a bit left over which we put in the bank just in case. I contribute to my political group and projects like housing for unmarried mothers. For me, it’s not a sacrifice it’s a duty.”

He explains

“I don’t oppose consumption. I am against waste.  We have to produce food for the hungry, roofs for those who need a home. Build schools for those who don’t have schools. We have to solve the water problem now. If every powerful person has three, four, five cars and needs 400sq meters to live and a house on the beach and an aeroplane to get here and there… then there isn’t enough for everyone. What does modern science tell us? It tells us indisputable facts. If the current world population aspired to consume like the average American. We would need three planet earth(s). Which means that if we continue tossing out things. Naturally, a great part of humanity will never have anything. They are doomed.”

Mujica only has one car, a 1980s beetle golf. When asked why he hasn’t tried to change the status quo or how his fellow countrymen live,  he doesn’t beat about the bush.

“Because if I tried to impose my way of living on the rest they’d kill me. They’d kill me I know it. But allow me the freedom to express myself. Because we complain about global warming while we assault nature by producing so much waste. We are mortgaging the future of the next generations. I can’t fix this as a government, I am a prisoner of this myself. What I’m pointing out is where we are heading. True there is extraordinary waste here. There are houses only used 20 days a year in Punta del Est. Luxurious houses while other’s don’t even have a shack to sleep at night. It’s crazy unjust. I oppose that world, but I am a prisoner of that world.”

The former Marxist guerrilla fighter is against re-election. For him, a president in a republic is a high-level official who is elected to carry out a function. He is neither a King nor a God. He is especially not – a witch doctor of a tribe who knows everything. He is a civil servant and as such he must leave and be replaced. Mujica believes the ideal way for a president to live is like the vast majority of the people whom he is attempting to serve and represent.

“My goal is to achieve a little less injustice in Uruguay to help the most vulnerable and leave behind a political way of thinking a way of looking at a future that will be passed on and used to move forward. There’s nothing short-term, no victory around the corner. I will not achieve paradise or anything like that. What I want is to fight a common good for progress. Life slips by, the way to continue it is for others to continue your work.”

 

Once in a while, something so surprisingly beautiful happens.Just when you think you are going to fall into an endless tunnel of nothingness suspended in space and time, you blink and there it is. A, way.

The question is, will you choose it?

 

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“WE NEED TO TALK” : Of Rape and Rhinos

The Horn (to end Rhino Poaching in South Africa)
The Horn (to end Rhino Poaching in South Africa)

24 Monday, December, 2012.  Johannesburg South Africa.  As I slowly stretched awake for yet another day of work ( do we really have to go? my body complains, yes we do baby, I say. )  my hand automatically reaches for the remote; my thumb knows the drill and it goes searching for the news channels, on the Beeb/ BBC is The Queen in all her Motherly splendor  wishing her subjects well during the festive season. Ah!  now she  has  had a great year!  Celebrations kicked off in earlier in 2011 with the wedding  of Prince William and Kate  Middleton ( ala Prince Charles and Diana 30 years ago) .  This year 2012,  the Queen became only the second British Monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.  The Royal  Diamond Jubilees  celebrate milestones in a Monarch’s reign. The Queen isn’t the only British Monarch to celebrate a Jubilee, George III and Queen Victoria both celebrated Jubilees during their reigns.  Her Diamond Jubilee saw London stop with much fan fare , what with  various  members of the Royal Family crisscrossing across the commonwealth:

“The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 countries that “support” each other and work together towards  shared goals in democracy and development.   “the commonwealth” is home to two billion citizens of all faiths  and ethnicity  and includes some of the world’s largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries. Over half of its citizens are 25 or under.  Member countries come from six regions: Please do Take Note : Africa (19); Asia (8); the Americas (3); the Caribbean (10); Europe (3); and the South Pacific (11).

Most recent members are: Rwanda – admitted at the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting; Cameroon; and Mozambique – the first country with no historical or administrative association to the Commonwealth to join.”

British Royals paid visits to each of these voluntary member states conferring the message of the queen (“Thank you for your Services, mineral resources, human capital, your souls).  She really does rule the world.  The Olympics went splendidly for the British Isles she said looking rather pale in a white/silver dress matching hair and make-up and black shoes. She was recording her annual Christmas message, in 3D this time, why not? The pope recently joined Twitter. Oh and she’s expecting a grandchild! Such great news for the Royal family.    This year though, with all this Jubilation going on she couldn’t help herself, attending a cabinet meeting at number 10 Downing street something which hasn’t happened in  over a century!  She’s coming out to play.  And so did some of  the Queens Colonies.  South African President Jacob Zuma was equally Jubilant this year so much to celebrate where shall we start; He got married again this year! One of his sons also tied a knot ;  how lovely! Oh and  his 70th Birthday was  A huge Bash! The ANC celebrated 100 years of its  existence — Jubilation all round, so many parties and so little time! God Must have really smiled on the Zuma family because this year they found more than 200million rands to upgrade their Nkandla  Residence with state of the art security lifts, bunkers, ever-green grass, and a private road to the  their homestead also known as the Presidents  Private Residence.  And then he slaughtered a few prized cows – The Prized Nguni Cow – the best in the world — to ask for more luck from his ancestors ahead of the ANC’s elective conference – and God Smiled at him again. He was re-elected President of the  African National Congress – by majority rule! God does give good gifts indeed.  Our president was having a lot of fun and I wished he could have at least spared a thought for the residents of Lenasia whose homes were razed to the ground two months ago… 80 homes bulldozed: He could have as a good gesture ask his family to at least give them a homes as gifts for Christmas? How about the widows and children of the Men killed in the Marikana Massacre by police for demanding better wages? They could have used a free education? Maybe homes etc as Christmas gifts?  Wine Farm-workers in the Western Cape? Could he have just increased their pay from 50 rand a day to like 200 hundred just for fun? Don’t they deserve a little gift from God?

A woman trying to stop her  house from being Demolished in Lenasia, South of Johannesburg
A woman trying to stop her house from being Demolished in Lenasia, South of Johannesburg

The queen for her part has a penchant for silly extravagance too … why record your message in  3D?  The death of the Australian nurse who shared information about Kate’s pregnancy has almost been forgotten  ” she was stupid” says many royal watchers /fans/ supporters and cynics who followed the story. The nurses’  death was first reported as a mystery then evidence emerged that she had hanged herself.  However tragic I wonder if she was mentioned in Queens Jubilant speech. Skynews – Kate and William break from tradition and celebrate Xmas at Kate’s family home. Ho! ho! ho!.   My thumb moves to Aljazeera there’s a debate about Rape in India! Still ?!!my mind wonders. “Protests over a recent gang rape quickly gained force over the weekend, tapping into longstanding fury against entrenched corruption and lopsided justice, and leading to clashes with the police. ” Reports NDTV.

“Seven days of demonstrations peaked Sunday, as thousands of people joined women’s and students’ groups despite a hastily enacted ban on protesting in New Delhi. The crowds taunted the police and attacked the car of a member of Parliament. The police, in turn, fired tear gas and water cannons, beat protesters with bamboo sticks and arrested dozens.”

Lets compare India’s rape cases to other country’s around the world, says the anchor of the show.  South Africa leads the world with more than 200-thousand- cases of rape being recorded (2010 figures) ,  let’s not forget that a  quarter of the women raped every 17 seconds are  children.

Suddenly I found myself wondering why there is no one protesting on South Africa’s streets. I mean we have enough reason to go out in our numbers like they are in India.   There’s no one protesting on the streets of South Africa. No-one.  These are reported cases of people who actually  bothered to call the police’s bluff and report the violence. But with South Africa’s Justice system being the way it is  many of these don’t even make it to court, those that do hardly any of the perpetrators are caught, sent to trial or convicted.  Eish.  Are so overwhelmed by violence, traumatized de-sensitized by violence that  we marvel at mass protests over one  or two rape ( I at least did) or  worse  even this we don’t  take India’s example. I have to wonder – What’s happening to us?  Lisa Vetten, a senior Researcher from the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Center say people are just overwhelmed.

There’s is this red horn that I have been seeing on cars  recently it’s Huge. I have been wondering what is the horn about…  until it finally  clicked! It’s a campaign to save the Rhino Campaign.

“The Rhinose campaign is aimed at creating awareness and raising funds for three non-profit conservation organisations.  A Rhino has

been killed for its horn every 16 hours this year.

As a result of these worrisome statistics, The Rhinose Day campaign was launched. This is a campaign to raise funds and create awareness and widen the fight against rhino poaching and the false medicinal myths in general.

Rhinose Day is a joint initiative of three non-profit conservation organizations, the Rhino Action Group Effort (RAGE), the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Rhinose Foundation.”

We should have a joint  initiatives  to fight rape against women, powered with as much money, marketing, publicity, modern technology, education and  technical know how.  We should  have all cabinet ministers,  the presidency and anyone with a voice – shouting loudly – about this atrocity as they are about Rhinos.

Are we not just as worried that at least 227- thousand women are assaulted, raped, injured and killed each year? Scared, mind body and souls  in different stages of  Post Traumatic Stress Disorders ( PTSD),  many of which go untreated?

Today a  33-year-old woman in the Eastern Cape was arrested after she stabbed her boyfriend with a knife on the chest. Here’s how the story was reported:

“Eastern Cape police at Addo have arrested a 33-year-old woman in connection with the murder of her 39-year-old boyfriend. He was stabbed with a knife. Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Marianette Olivier says the couple had an argument in their house at Nomathamsanqa at Addo. Friends stopped the fight and the man left. Shortly afterwards, he returned and again began assaulting his girlfriend – this time with a pick-axe handle. Olivier says the woman then allegedly stabbed him with a knife in the chest. He died on the scene.”

So what are we doing to stop this?  A tiny search on Google on Rhino Killings brings up more than 2 million pages,  from Save the Rhino to the more glittering page of Stop Rhino Poaching Now!  from the pictures one would swear it was a Miss World contest with all the awards that those involved in the industry give each other.

So who cares about the women?  Why is there so much money , time and political will put in to end the atrociously lucrative business of Rhino Horn Poaching and nothing done to prevent rape  against women and children  in the country? Every 17 seconds a woman is raped? How will these girl children become loving caring mothers? What society are we creating?

When will we care enough to have  – “Red Horns”- as a campaign against the  consistent and insistent rape of women , children and the elderly?  I think it’s apt.   Let’s all wear red horns on our heads in protest as against the rape of women and rhinos, why not?  Let’s all pull our resources together –   build safe homes for women and children who have been violated and brutalized, give them  a place to recover and feel safe and empowered. It is really that impossible?  Have door to door campaigns, to speak to men in schools, offices, street corners, cabinet offices, bedrooms…

Or is just too much to ask ? How much has changed since 1960 -1994?

I wonder.