Dont stress about us in SA – a letter that just made my Monday morning

So Paul Harris, founder of First Rand sent this mail to a concerned friend:

Hi Jeff

Hope all is well with you guys. I will drop you a line later with the family news but I would first like to respond to the e-mail you sent me attaching an article by Clem Sunter, which seemed to concern you about us here in South Africa.

You also sent me an article last year by Moeletsi Mbeki warning about the danger of an “Arab Spring” in South Africa. I often get e-mails like this from “concerned friends” worried about us, which is sweet of you guys. Of course we are concerned. Some worrying things have happened but we have been through and survived much worse in much more volatile environments. Including the Boer War, two World Wars, apartheid, the financial crisis without a bank bailout, the Rindapest, Ge Korsten and Die Antwoord!

However, for as long as I can remember there have always been people who think SA has five years left before we go over the cliff. No change from when I was at school in the sixties. The five years went down to a few months at times in the eighties!

But it seems the people who are the most worried live far from the cliff in places like Toronto, Auckland, London and other wet and cold places. Also from St Ives and Rose Bay in Sydney, Dallas and Europe and other “safe places” that are in the grip of the global financial crisis, which by the way is quite scary. Many of them have survived decades of rolling “five years left” since they left South Africa. So maybe they will be right one day!

My message is, please don’t stress about us in South Africa. We are fine. We are cool. We know we live in the most beautiful country in the world with warm and vibrant people. There are more people here with smiles on their faces than in any country I have ever been to.

Young people are returning in droves with skills and a positive attitude. Collectively we bumble along and stuff many things up while letting off a hell of a lot of steam (have you heard of a chap called Julius Malema?). Yet in between South Africans do some amazing things like win a few gold medals, big golf tournaments and cricket and rugby matches.

The South Africans I know get off their butts and do things to build our country rather than whinge from a position of comfort. We actively participate in projects that improve the lot of underprivileged communities. I would not trade for anything last Saturday in a hall full of 1500 African teachers singing at the top of their voices and demonstrating their commitment to improving education in their communities.

We have our challenges and surprises. The standard deviation of our emotions are set at MAX. You are never just a “little bit happy” or a “little bit sad”. At one moment you can be “off the scale” pissed off or frustrated or sad or worried or fearful or depressed. The next moment you are “off the scale” exhilarated, or enchanted, or inspired, or humbled by a kind deed, or surprised by something beautiful. It makes life interesting and worth living.

We also have passionate debates about the future of SA. Helped of course by red wine which you must taste again because it is getting better every year! Clem makes a great contribution to the debate as others like Moletsi Mbeki do. Russell Loubser the ex-head of the JSE made a feisty speech the other day that has whipped up emotions. Up to MAX on the emotions meter of the ANC Youth League whose campaign for nationalisation of the mines was attributed to people who have IQs equal to room temperature.

South African politics has always been volatile, we have opinions that could not be further apart and it evokes emotion on a massive scale. Interesting and stimulating for those that want to take it seriously but noise in the system to me. Fortunately we are rid of apartheid that would have definitely pushed us over the cliff. These are the birth pangs of a new and unpredictable democracy. So buckle up and enjoy the ride and contribute! That is the message I convey to South Africans.

Sad as it is, it is true that the South African diaspora has a largely negative influence on confidence in South Africa. It would not be a problem if their fretting about how long we will last before we go over the cliff was merely a reflection of their concern for us, their friends and family.

The problem is that it does impact foreign investment, which is important for economic growth. A person who is thinking of coming to visit or investing is often put off by listening wide-eyed to the stories of people who have gapped it.

As you know I host many foreign visitors and I have never, EVER, met anyone who has visited for the first time without being blown away by the beauty of the country and the warmth of the people. It is not for nothing that South Africa has the highest ratio of repeat visitors of all long-haul destinations.

So, Jeff, how can I help you stop stressing out about us? Maybe best is that you get exposed to some articles and websites that give a more balanced and uplifting perspective of South Africa. So please don’t worry and if you get a chance, put in a good word for us.

All the best



You are most yourself when not trying to be yourself

“A good traveller is one who does not know the destination, and a perfect traveller does not know where he came from.” – Lin Yutang

Do you ever feel that you can never get quite what you wanted to express out and into the world? There’s an aching in your spine, the nausea moving through your stomach and clouded thoughts sifting dimply through your mind. Life is strange paradox, we have all the options in the world open yet we don’t know which one to choose. It’s a paradox of freedom I suppose, to be frozen by the overwhelming abundance of choice. There are so many examples, so many individuals to learn from and to guide us. Yet we sit. We stare. We long.

It seems that creation and art itself is a paradox because in order to authentically express one’s self it must come from an absent mind, without intention. The Taoist term is wu-we: to do by not doing. Anything clear and distinct or whenever we have a vision or conviction it seems the outcome is less powerful, at least to ourselves, than unabashed expression. It may be primal instinct, something as civilized as culture may just mold our urge to thump around on the ground in a socially acceptable way. Another paradox it seems: to lash out because you’re unable to lash out. Freud called this neurotic behavior, to express our desires in a way society approves of. Heavy Metal and video games are great examples of neuroses. Instead of a Dionysian and cathartic explosion of our urges, we bury it or try and find that which hits closest to what we would really like to do.

This perspective works well when considering the evolution of Western culture of the past two centuries. As man became more and more civilized, his urges for primal expression grew stronger. Capitalists try to develop products to submerge these, to use material possessions as a subterfuge for that which is most natural. As Christianity and guilt’s grip loosened, the new iron grasp of consumerism swoops in to relieve the forgotten gods and replace them with a new form of diversion. As industrialism developed so did uniformity, blandness and perfectionism. With new technology came new standards. Man began to feel more and more separated from his world, alienated from the dirt under his nails.

When looking at the artistic development of the past few centuries one begins to see the breakdown of artificial barriers and rules while simultaneously more structure and rule began to rise all around. As the ground was paved to roads and skies filled with buildings, music and art became freer and looser than before. Composers began rejecting tonality, artists became more and more abstract and social standards began to loosen. Within their constraint man found a way to be free beyond their physical barriers. Neuroses began to evolve. As science developed man was found to be a speck within the whirlwind of the universe leaving him lonelier and in greater despair than ever before. Mankind began its decline into nihilism and has been faced with the paradox of their freedom ever since. Even with God in the picture, more and more paradoxes began to arise.

While we became more civilized externally, internally we remained just as primal. Bigger bullets, bigger bombs, bigger buildings, bigger fires, bigger disasters and yet our hearts remain the same size. Another paradox, how the greater the technology, the greater the wealth, the lower the happiness, and the increase of discontentment (manufactured or not) than ever before. Life itself became a paradox, that meaningless must become our meaning like a phoenix from a flame. Even when the big picture makes all of life seem trivial and pointless, we live on continuing to feel, love and desire. Walking aimlessly in the dark we keep the light in our minds and paint our own canvas.

I’ve always found the most absurd and chaotic to be the most beautiful, something I find very rare. Somehow in chaos, absurdity and atonality I find harmony. Staring the mess of Jackson Pollack’s art I feel for a moment as if the whole world makes sense. All the calculated and formulated art seems so cold and distant. It was as if the artists were missing something or maybe I was missing something; probably a little of both. However, when staring into a smear of paint on the wall, I feel most alive. The same goes with music. When hearing atonal chaotic noise as in a Frank Zappa composition I feel as if the world is dancing. Maybe these artists finally caught up with the universe and began to play to the world’s tune rather than making it fit into theirs. The music of atonal “avant-garde” artists seems to write music for life that matches the sounds and poetry of the world around us in all its chaotic harmony. Their music and art is closest to pure expression, to a primordial release. It speaks to the heart and mind in ways formulated and civilized culture cannot. There is a very unique emotion to it, an emotion that runs deeper than any other and blankets one’s body inside and out.

What’s most fascinating in my experience of creating such music and art is that intention can be the biggest hindrance to achieving a potent effect. Like wu-we, creating powerful improvised or spontaneous music, poetry or art, one must let go and surrender all will and intention while involved in the creative process. Facilitating this sort of creation becomes a very complex task. Like in Zen, enlightenment or the Zen realization comes when one is relieved of action. To do this is hard to explain and even harder to do. This is so because doing is quite the opposite of the intention, and again intention will tarnish the results. Like trying to calm the waves in a pond, the best method is to let it be. You cannot flatten water; to do so would only make the matter worse. Authenticity is much the same. As soon as awareness or intention is brought to the matter, it disappears. You are most yourself when not trying to be yourself, this is when you are most authentic.

These ideas are quite foreign to the Western ideal of things. Work is highly valued and non-action or idleness is looked down upon and a waste of time. Time is given a dollar value and to waste time is to waste money. One must have goals, orientation, and most of all intention. It is no wonder many are walking around feeling hallow, inauthentic, and confused. How can one capture that which can only be captured by not looking for it? Another paradox is that happiness only comes when it is not sought after. This is called the paradox of hedonism. This is not too foreign. Just think of all the most compelling and interesting nights of your life. Often they arise when unplanned or out of boredom. As soon as an intention is set, the goal is lost. However, it seems counterintuitive to claim life is best lived directionless and without purpose. This is what we consider depression, a state of confusion,  and despair. It seems we have on our hands another paradox; life is best lived when aimlessly chasing something. Sounds off still.

If our lives are like a Pollock painting like the existentialist proposes , how is it we capture our authenticity? We already let go the idea of the aimless life, but is there a way to synthesize the two extremes? To look at the opposite end, a life of rigid rules and strict dogmatic devotion leaves one caged and bored. Routine is the punishment Sisyphus was condemned to, and it is commonly said variety is the spice of life. Too much though may prove too strong for most. Total instability is stressful and begins to turn life into a proverbial whirlpool. However, if we try and mix our lives up, it becomes contrived like the middle aged man trying to recapture his youth with hip clothes and a hot rod. So what is the overarching philosophy to be? Can we learn from spontaneous creation?

For me, I feel most at home when writing, doing as I am now: making the message up as I go while watching my thoughts and emotions weave themselves through my fingertips and onto the paper or into the air; letting the piece of work take form as it may. Sure, the finished product is not as refined as it could be, but it is as true and real as it gets. It remains authentic so long as intention is kept at a distance (which is hard when intention is the topic at hand). One must facilitate a necessary environment for it to occur without forming any sort of goal, like when opening Microsoft Word or setting up a canvas. One is placing themselves in a context relevant to their mode of expression or catharsis while letting go of a goal. This is very much like meditation where you take position to facilitate non-action.

There must be a way to do the same in life. To allow for the possibility of happiness and spontaneity without actually seeking it and remaining open to all life has to offer. Like a Pollock piece, one has to take a step back and absorb all the strokes of life. It’s in the big picture we are simultaneously lost and found. Could it be the meaning of life is simply to live it, to accept it, and revel in its ambiguity? Is life an end in itself? If so, is seeking meaning, purpose and direction self defeating? Like a guitar solo or poem, maybe authenticity and truth come when we stop trying. Bukowski has two words written on his grave: Don’t Try. This is a message to writers looking for inspiration on how to stay inspired. As he so elegantly put it, “A good poem is like a beer shit.”

In our society and the collective consciousness, being “put together” and holding a clear and distinct understanding are held in high esteem, but maybe being lost isn’t so bad. It always seemed to me that the ones who appear to have their lives together are the lost ones, while the rest end up with something beautiful. It seems that life happens whether we want it to or not. We wake up, the sun rises, things happen, we die and life goes on. Change is the way of the world, and trying to grab onto something will only make its departure more painful.

It seems all of life is a paradox, and most of the truths are backwards. This isn’t anything new, which is another paradox: that sometimes the oldest and most primitive end up being the most timeless and sophisticated. As for expression and the irking under my skin I started with, it seems as if I achieved my goal as always, by not meaning to.


Bullying, a way of life?


Have you heard? Bullying is a major problem.


Recently the spotlight has once again been turned towards the issue of bullying in schools following the tragic death of Amanda Todd.


In what seems like a never ending cycle news reports and social media platforms have been filled with debates and stories surrounding bullying and what children have to endure while at school.


Why now? Why now do we remind ourselves of the major problems adolescents face and endure at least until Britney Spears shaves her head again or the next minister’s wife is found to be the leader of an international drug cartel.


To me it really seems that there is a bigger problem, and the problem is a lot bigger than bullying in school.


Bullying has become a global norm, the way to go about getting what you want.


How do we expect the youth to stop bullying when we teach them that that is the way to get things done…to get ahead in life?


It seems we haven’t realised that in some way we have all become the big bullies in the playground.


It’s in the way we drive, someone cuts you off…hoot, swerve and intimidate the other car to ‘get them back’.


It’s in the way we protest, not giving us what we want…hack, charge, maim until you get what you want.


It’s in the way we react to protesters; listen or we shoot to kill.


It’s in the way we deal with politics, we don’t like what you are saying or doing…watch out we will have you killed, regardless if it is on live television or not.


We have taught the youth that bullying is okay…even if we didn’t mean to.


So how do we break the cycle? If you don’t stop bulling we shoot to kill…

I was just impressed but Julius ‘Vuvezela Politics’ Malema

Being one of the many unlucky masses in Johannesburg that has to travel through the crawling Johannesburg traffic every morning I have resigned myself to use the time for a little education on current affairs. Every morning I listen to the John Robbie show on 702 Talk Radio, for about an hour or so and usually find myself with some food for thought or finding out something new.

This morning Julius Malema was interviewed on the show and instead of his usual radical ‘I WILL SHOUT EVERYTHING’ politics, he actually seemed to be pretty level headed. He answered most of the questions posed to him with such conviction I actually started to believe what he was saying. I honestly and truly began to think: “Oh yes I see your point, nationalisation sounds like a great idea! Yes President Zuma must have singled you out, poor Juju how have these ‘dictators’ been able to get away with treating you like this?”

Now I’m not what some people would term uneducated, I have a internationally recognised degree and am considered a specialist in my field… so how did I find myself believing this man who I know to be a complete fraud? How did I start to relate to someone who openly advocates violence, nationalisation and a score of other unearthly things while seated comfortably in his plush leather car while ‘his’ people starve on the other side of his darkened windows?

I read somewhere a few years ago that African politics is a popularity contest. For the first time I can truly identify with this statement as I fell for it! I was sucked in, I actually felt sorry for the very man who sings: “Dubula amabhunu baya raypha.”

I felt like a sucker, waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out shouting: “You’ve been Pun’kd!” …no Ashton.

So if I wasn’t on a TV show and I’m not a complete idiot how did this happen? How is it possible that for a second I believed in Malema’s political plight? So I got to thinking isn’t that what all politicians do? They sucker you in, make you believe in their cause and get you to vote. Because that’s what it is it’s THEIR cause not the people’s cause. Being a politician is the most selfish career one can get into, there are of course the exceptions; take Mandela for instance (I guess at points in his career this too can be argued against). Most politicians however are in it for THEMSELVES, especially in Africa where leaders are not always held accountable for their actions.

So when did WE let this happen? When did we get suckered in by politicians? When did we start believing the men and women who stand up and tell us what we want to hear and condemn them when they say things we don’t necessarily want to hear, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation. I really wish Ashton would jump out right about now.

My advice: stick to your shade of lipstick, pink is most definitely your colour.

Yes, I see it okay. I see the irony in my writing this post but I could not let this one go.

Few things in this world make me angry and one of them is complete ignorance. I’m sure a few of you may have seen The Christowitz Report circulating on Facebook and most likely ruining your Friday afternoon. Now I will admit when the first post came out I was slightly amused if not taken aback by the use of every swear word in the book.

Then came week two, I felt like I was watching an accident happen in slow motion and I still haven’t been able to look away. Then came the ‘I hate nature post’, I read it bemused and later discussed it with a friend of mine, both of us while reading it had felt inclined to write a blog post in reply to the rant but had denied ourselves the satisfaction. Having read this week’s report I simply could not resist.

The report claims that the point is to make people laugh “That’s the f&*king point. To the few of you who still don’t get the point of all this… maybe private school was a waste of your parents’ money.” The thing is that it’s not, perhaps it started out as funny, even I can admit that and sure parts of it are still rather humorous but where the report fails is where it dips its toes into the realm of actual opinion.

The reports uninformed rant about ‘down-the-middle-ness’ in my opinion is probably the most ridiculous thing I have ever had the misfortune of reading. A rant that stands against girls wearing pink lipstick, bad action movies and nature is standing for something? Perhaps you have a future in South African politics.

“Love some shit! Hate some shit! Make a decision and stick by it. Form an opinion and fight to defend it. Believe in something! Yank the double-sided dildo of mediocrity and indifference out of your ass and do something. Anything. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong or if you fail or succeed, just do it.” Encouraging people to stand for something, anything is just plain idiotic. There was once a man who hated Jews and loved killing them, he stuck by that decision and we are all aware he fought to defend it, he sure as hell believed in it. I presume it doesn’t really matter if he was right or wrong?

Sure we are encouraged to have opinions, but these opinions simply must be informed or they are harmful or just plain annoying. Pray tell, what is the use of an opinion on ‘Mall Dawdlers’? Is that not closer to mediocrity than anything else we may encounter in this world and I’m assured that an irrelevant opinion is just as useless and indifferent as no opinion at all.

Anyone with half an education surely must be fuming at this insult to their intelligence, sure we can ignore opinions and blogs such as the aforementioned, sure entering into a discussion about it is ironic but surely that is the point?

They say that you are only writing something worthwhile if people are complaining about it. In this case they are complaining because it’s ignorant, sensationalist rubbish and that, is not worth a dime.

My advice: stick to your shade of lipstick, pink is most definitely your colour.


Keep your dick in your pants

Unless you have been living in North Korea, I doubt you have yet to hear about the controversy surrounding the picture of our dear President Jacob Zuma by the rather talented and possibly unemployed Brett Murray.

Basically the picture titled“The Spear” displays Zuma in a Leninist stance with his ‘bits’ hanging out. I’m sure all of you remember the hours spent in English Literature in high school, or for those of us who took it for four years in university the months and months spent trying to decide what the artist meant in one line of a three page poem. It always comes down to the fact that we have no idea what the author of the poem meant. Similarly we have no idea what Brett Murray’s intentions were when he created the piece, although I am rather certain his intention was not to receive death threats.

Gwede Mantashe, secetary general of the A.N.C., said the painting played into stereotypes of black men as hypersexualised. “It is rude, crude and disrespectful.It has an element of racism. It says that black people feel no pain and can be portrayed walking around with their genitals in the open. They are objects of ridicule. I can tell you that if you were to draw a white politician in that way, the outcry would be totally different.”  And how would you know my dear Gwede?

Anyway here are just a few thoughts I have on the whole issue.

1.Lenin is more important than a penis.

Since when did a picture of a penis become more controversial than Vladimir Lenin himself, you know the guy who lead the Russian Revolution, was leader of the Bolshevik Party, and first ruler of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The dude who was possibly was partly to blame for a little thing called The Red Terror, you may have heard of it…if not get out of North Korea. Now I’m not going to get into a argument about the negatives and positives of Communism but to me it seems like somehow the point is being missed. After all one could say that roughly half of the world’s population has a penis, there was only one Lenin.

How is this not the issue?

2. The painting insults African culture?

Talk about a broad statement by Sonwabile Mancotywa, ceo of The National Heritage Council (NHC): “In our African culture and tradition this painting amounts to the most extreme indecency and misnomer.”

I’m African and I’m not offended by this in anyway. I did a survey around my office (or as far as the chain that connects me to my desk would stretch) and not one person felt their ‘African culture’ was insulted; in fact most people were simply amused when I showed them the uncensored picture.

What exactly is ‘African culture’? Now I realise this statement will ensue a flurry of angry comments calling me an uneducated fool, but has African culture always been the most modest of cultures?

Traditional African dress usually doesn’t involve much in way of clothing right? Please educate me if I’m wrong! Perhaps the correct statement would have been to say it is in insult to Zulu culture. But even then traditional Zulu garb doesn’t really provide much in terms of coverage? If an artist had painted a picture of Zuma or anyone in traditional Zulu garb with various private parts would there have been such an outcry? Go down to the Rosebank flee market on a Sunday and you will be greeted by an array of naked paintings of women, walk into CNA and your eyes will be assaulted by half naked women in the men’s magazine sections and for that matter the women’s section too.

Shock! Horror! Boobs!

Sock! Horror! Boobs?

3. So what if he’s the president?

If the painting was of a nameless face I would not be writing this post in angst. Since when did a picture displaying genitalia become such a hot topic. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon have produced what I would term much more explicit and provoking than Brett Murray?

Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous Virtual Man has his penis hanging right out there for all to see, it’s even included in school textbooks but no one seems to have any problem with that. There are even half naked depictions of Jesus Christ himself yet you don’t see people vandalising the Louvre and causing all out anarchy.

I do believe there’s a little clause in our well guarded constitution called freedom of speech, now obviously there are also laws against defamation, but he’s the president of South Africa nogal. What president doesn’t get publically lambasted just about every day that they are in office? Even Mandela had his critics. You are a public figure people are going to say and do things, my suggestion is get over it.

This is art

William Kentridge, (again get out of North Korea) has said that:  “Both the work of the artist and the controversy his work arouses are to be welcomed,” and South Africans are “fortunate to live in a country with a Constitution that acknowledges the importance of open debate on all issues.” Dam right ‘Willy’!

What I find worrying is that there has been no official statement by Zuma himself. The A.N.C. have  called “The Spear” “distasteful, vulgar, indecent and disrespectful,” and “an affront to the dignity and the privacy of President Zuma in all his capacities, but also as a South African whose right to human dignity and privacy is protected and guaranteed by the South African Constitution.”

So is this

Where are you Jacob it’s your penis we are talking about? Perhaps you have better things to deal with like the unparalleled corruption in your government?

Yes I think there are better things to worry about then a picture of a penis let alone try muse on what the artist was thinking when he painted it.

My life is an office

There is something perverse about office life. It is necessarily hierarchical and competitive, with bosses, subordinates, promotions and ‘employees of the month’, and yet it is usually conducted under communal auspices, also known as ‘team spirit’. We must work to survive, yet it becomes necessary to maintain the illusion that we approach our tasks passionately and harbor sacred feelings of loyalty for our comrades up, down, and a few rungs over on the corporate latticework. Given such conditions, it’s no wonder that offices can often be hothouses of envy, pity, despair and contempt. Paradoxically, they are also very dull places to spend your days. Offices are either the theaters of our ambition or the prisons where we were condemned when we betrayed our dreams.

27 things she knew at 27

Here is another one of my favourite lists, my ‘German’ friend wrote it.

15. is my favourite:  Youth. You are never too old to do anything. Live life – have fun!

1. Age. It’s just a number.
2. Fear. Life it too short – be bold and be brave!
3. Time. The most precious thing you are given. Be wise as to how you spend it.
4. Money. It really makes the world go round but it shouldn’t be the end of your rainbow.
5. Music. One of the most powerful things we have.
6. People. Too many people limit themselves and define themselves by what they are instead of what they can be.
7. Choice. There is always an alternative.
8. Parents. Appreciate every day you have with them.
9. Death. It is not final.
10. Gratitude. Be grateful for the smaller things you have in life.
11. Self. To thy own self ALWAYS be true! Never compromise on who you are.
12. Silence. You find yourself in your silence.
13. Friends. A true friendship is priceless.
14. Honesty. The truth always comes out.
15. Youth. You are never too old to do anything. Live life – have fun!
16. TV. Overrated.
17. Numbers. There is power in numbers.
18. Travel. There is no such thing as a lonesome solo traveller.
19. Boundaries. They are there to be challenged.
20. Respect. A little respect goes a long way. We are equals.
21. Responsible. You are accountable for your actions.
22. Love. The most painful and most beautiful thing on earth.
23. Sharing. Some things in life are better shared.
24. Mind. The power of the mind is greater than you believe.
25. Chance. Everybody deserves a second chance. To err is human.
26. Regret. Life is too short to regret. Learn and move on.
27. Knowledge. Never stop learning.

Open Letter to Jason Russel of Invisible Children Inc on KONY2012

I don’t usually re-blog or re-post but this open letter is just too fantastic:

By Amber Ha

Dear Jason Russell,

After being bombarded with your KONY 2012 crusade, I have no choice but to respond to your highly inaccurate, offensive, and harmful propaganda.  I realized I had to respond in hopes of stopping you before you cause more violence and deaths to the Acholi people (Northern Ugandans), the very people you are claiming to protect.

Firstly, I would like to question your timing of this KONY 2012 crusade in Uganda when most of the violence from Joseph Kony and the LRA (The Lord’s Resistance Army) has subsided in Uganda in the past 5 years. The LRA has moved onto neighboring countries like the DRC and Southern Sudan. Why are you not urging action in the countries he is currently in? Why are you worried about Kony all of a sudden when Ugandans are not at this present moment?

This grossly illogical timing and statements on your website such as “Click here to buy your KONY 2012 products” makes me believe that the timing has more to do with your commercial interests than humanitarian interests. With the upcoming U.S. presidential elections and the waning interest in Invisible Children, it seems to be perfect timing to start a crusade. I also must add at this point how much it personally disgusts me the way in which you have commercialized a conflict in which thousands of people have died.

Secondly, I would like to address the highly inaccurate content of your video. Your video did not leave the viewer any more knowledgeable about the conflict in Uganda, but only emotionally assaulted. I could not help but notice how conveniently one-sided the “explanation” in your video was. There was absolutely no mention of the role of the Ugandan government and military in the conflict. Let alone the role of the U.S. government and military.  The only information given is “KONY MUST BE STOPPED.”

I would like to inform you that stopping Kony would not end the conflict. (It is correctly pronounced “Kohn” by the way). This conflict is deeply embedded in Uganda’s history that neither starts nor ends with Kony. Therefore, your solution to the problem is flawed. There is no way to know the solution, without full knowledge of the problem itself.  We must act on knowledge, not emotions.

Joseph Kony formed the LRA in retaliation to the brutality of President Museveni (from the south) committing mass atrocities on the Acholi people (from the north) when President Museveni came to power in 1986. This follows a long history of Ugandan politics that can be traced back to pre-colonial times.  The conflict must be contextualized within this history. (If you want to have this proper knowledge, I suggest you start by working with scholars, not celebrities).  President Museveni is still in power and in his reign of 26 years he has arguably killed as many, if not more Acholi people, than Joseph Kony. Why is President Museveni not demonized, let alone mentioned? I would like to give you more credit than just ignorance. I have three guesses. One is that Invisible Children has close ties with the Ugandan government and military, which it has been accused of many times. Second, is that you are willing to fight Kony, but not the U.S. Government, which openly supports President Museveni. Third, is that Invisible Children feels the need to reduce the conflict to better commercialize it.

This brings me to my third issue, the highly offensive nature of your video. Firstly, it is offensive to your viewer. The scene with your “explanation” of the conflict to your toddler son suggests that the viewers have the mental capacity of a toddler and can only handle information given in such a reductionist manner. I would like to think American teenagers and young adults (which is clearly your target audience) are smarter than your toddler son. I would hope that we are able to realize that it is not a “Star Wars” game with aliens and robots in some far off galaxy as your son suggests, but a real world conflict with real world people in Uganda. This is a real life conflict with real life consequences.

Secondly, and more importantly, it is offensive to Ugandans. The very name “Invisible Children” is offensive. You claim you make the invisible, visible. The statements, “We have seen these kids.” and “No one knew about these kids.” are part of your slogan. You seem to be strongly hinting that you somehow have validated and found these kids and their struggles.

Whether you see them or not, they were always there. Your having seen the kids does not validate their existence in any shape or form or bring it any more significance. You say “no one” knew about the kids. What about the kids themselves? What about the families of the kids who were killed and abducted? Are they “no one?” Are they not human?

These children are not invisible, you are making them invisible by silencing, dehumanizing, marketing, and invalidating them.

Last year I went to Gulu, Uganda, where Invisible Children is based, and interviewed over 50 locals.  Every single person questioned Invisible Children’s legitimacy and intention. Every single person. If anything, it seemed the people saw Invisible Children as a bigger threat than Joseph Kony at the time. Why is it the very people you are trying to “help” feel more offense than relief with your aid?

“They come here to make money and use us.”

“It makes us feel terrible to be presented as being so stupid and helpless.”

These are direct quotes. This was the sentiment of the majority of the people that I interviewed in varying degrees. I definitely didn’t see or hear these voices or opinions in your video. If you are to be “saving” the Acholi people, the very least you can be doing is holding yourself accountable to them and actually listening to what they have to say.

This offensive, inaccurate misconstruction of Ugandans and the conflict makes me wonder what and whom this is really about. It seems that you feel very good about yourself being a savior, a Luke Skywalker of sorts, and same with the girl in your video who passionately states, “This is what defines us”. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder if Invisible Children is more about defining the American do-gooders (and making them feel good), rather than the Ugandans; profiteering the American military and corporations (which Invisible Children is officially and legally) than the conflict.

Lastly, I would like to address the harmful nature of your propaganda. I believe your actions will actually bring back the fighting in Northern Uganda. You are not asking for peace, but violence. The fighting has stopped in the past 5 years and the Acholi are finally enjoying some peace.  You will be inviting the LRA and the fighting back into Uganda and disturbing this peace. The last time Invisible Children got politically involved and began lobbying it actually caused more violence and deaths. I beg you not to do it again.

If you open your eyes and see the actions of the Ugandan government and the U.S. government, you will see why.  Why is it that suddenly in October of 2011 when there has been relative peace in Uganda for 4 years, President Obama decided to send troops into Uganda? Why is it that the U.S. military is so involved with AFRICOM, which has been pervading African countries, including Uganda? Why is it that U.S. has been traced to creating the very weapons that has been used in the violence?  The U.S. is entering Uganda and other countries in Africa not to stop violence, but to create a new battlefield.

In your video you urge that the first course of action is that the Ugandan military needs American military and weapons. You are giving weapons to the very people who were killing the Acholi people in the first place. You are helping to open the grounds for America to make Uganda into a battlefield in which it can profit and gain power. Please recognize this is all part of a bigger military movement, not a humanitarian movement. This will cause deaths, not save lives. This will be causing more harm, than good.

You end your video with saying, “I will stop at nothing”.  If nothing else, will you not stop for the lives of the Acholi people? Haven’t enough Acholi people suffered in the violence between the LRA and the Ugandan government? Our alliance should not be with the U.S. government or the Ugandan military or the LRA, but the Acholi people.  There is a Ugandan saying that goes, “The grass will always suffer when two elephants fight.” Isn’t it time we let the grass grow?

Thank you.


Amber Ha

Why Joseph Kony is better than you.

Hey all you guys up there on your high horse!

Get down; come chill out with Kony and myself.

A good friend of mine recently tweeted asking: “Do you think so many people would have died in the Holocaust, Cambodia, etc. if the internet and social media was being used, like today?” When I read this Tweet I felt a swell of irrational anger, probably spurred on by me 3rd Red Bull of the day. What made me even angrier is how many people dared to ask this question.

How dare you ask this?

Just an aside, people are assuming that the world was not aware of the above mentioned incidents. The world knew about them, take Rwanda for instance the world knew about it but failed to give a shit. We as human beings should be ashamed that we have the tools now more than ever before yet still we only ‘play’ that we are doing something about the problems of the world. Is this not worse?

Do you really think watching a video such as the Kony 2012 video that has gone viral will do anything?  How many of you watched it  from the comfort of your home and office pushed share, tweeted or made a Facebook status about it then waddled over to your TV wearing your Che Guevara t-shirt and forgot all about it because you did your bit by pushing share. You clicked a mouse you didn’t do anything, don’t dare pat yourself on the back, you really don’t deserve it.

Rhino poaching, yet another widespread issue especially for South Africans. Sure you watched the video of the guy telling you how much killing rhinos sucks and you clicked share (I admit I shared it too), and you hear everyday how many more rhinos have been killed. “Ag shame man, those poor rhinos,” has probably been said an infinite number of times, yet nothing changes.

At least the little Chinese man with erectile disfunction is doing something about it, and Joseph Kony who we can all agree seems to be a bigger douche bag than George Bush Junior is doing what he must believe rather strongly in, even if it is just for power and greed.

If there were more people like Kony in this world it would be a better place.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot I’m not saying everyone should start raping and stealing children to make them child soldiers. It’s just not realistic for everyone to become war lords and there are definitely not enough children for each person to have their own little army. What I am saying is obviously these people believe so strongly in something that they are willing to actually do something about it.

Imagine how the world could change if just half the world was willing to stop thinking that pushing like or share was actually doing something to help anyone, because I hate to burst your bubble but its not.

We aren’t doing shit. Joseph Kony is the one winning here and you know what he deserves too because unlike us he is willing to fight for whatever the flip he is fighting for.

….having said that like this post if you agree.