“Small Talk” is very African: In Defence of Small Talk.

September 29, 2014 § 11 Comments


One of the things that confuses me about us modern Africans is our sudden hatred for small talk. The idea of small talk is really foreign, if not a Western one. It became fashionable to say that we hate small talk once we started hearing that there was such a thing. I don’t know when I first heard that there was such a thing even. What I am sure of is that it was not something I ever heard in the villages or the townships.

When in the villages, one always sees people talking simply for the enjoyment of engaging in conversation, not because there is some deep philosophical discussion taking place, it’s just people enjoying each other. Rarely would you two strangers walk past each other and simply exchange a ‘hello’ and carry on. They would exchange pleasantries and then carry on. In fact, the pleasantries would carry on even after they had said goodbye and are walking in opposite directions, they would talk to each other until their voices faded. This is the beauty that we are losing and will most certainly lose, probably in our life times.
We no longer enjoy each other simply for the fact that someone is a human being. There must be purpose for talking to someone these, which is most unfortunate. I suppose there was a purpose even back then, but it was simply to enjoy someone else’s voice and what it has to share. It was about recognizing the other person’s humanity – ubuntu bakhe.

As Steve Biko put it, “Westerners have on so many occasions been surprised at the capacity we have for talking to one another – not for the sake of arriving at a particular conclusion but merely to enjoy communication for its own sake.” And he went on to say that, “No one felt unnecessarily an intruder into someone else’s business.”

Which reminds me of something strange when I went to a boarding school when I was 10. A boy came up to me and asked to be my friend. I was surprised and taken aback because I had assumed that we were since we hung out together with other boys anyway. I asked him why he would even ask that. I think my question embarrassed him, but I was simply confused by the question. I had never heard of it ever being asked. People who hung around together were friends. Maybe I thought that way because I was one of a few boys who had actually joined the school who came from a village. I was friends with everyone I grew up, including the boys I fought with. Everyone else was from some town or township.

I am sometimes accused of engaging in small talk and lack an ability to wean myself from people in a social setting. Although to be honest, I get away from some conversations as fast as I can because that is what our society has become and I too am contributing to this.

In fact, in Xhosa, the language that I speak, there is no word for small talk that I can think of. I suppose what would call small talk one could call “ukuncokola”. It means much more than just chatting, it’s a conversation and enjoying what each is communicating to the other.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that the reason black people Tweet more frequently than white people (some study says this, even in the US it’s the case), it is because of our need and desire to just communicate and chat for the simple act of having a conversation. It is something we cannot shake off and I hope we never do.

Perhaps we call it small talk now because we have lost the art of ukuncokola. Or we are just too busy hurrying off to place and people and things we will forget anyway.

Thabo Mbeki’s address at Walter Sisulu’s Funeral

August 28, 2014 § 1 Comment

Our country, and nature herself, have been in mourning since that fateful day, the 5th of May, when Walter Sisulu ceased to breathe.

While he lived, there were many in our country who knew nothing about him, except perhaps what they had been told or not told by those who had been his jailers.

While he lived, there were many who did not understand the unwavering humanism of the cause to which he dedicated his whole life, who were blind to what he did to ensure that his movement and his people remained forever loyal to their humanist calling.

When these came to know that there had been such a gentle giant in their midst, hidden from them as though he did not exist, they asked themselves the question – why did we not know!

But there were many others who knew of the place he occupied among the great galaxy of leaders of our people who had given their all, to ensure that all our people and all Africa were liberated from oppression, from poverty and underdevelopment and the intolerable pain of contempt and humiliation.

These knew that Walter Sisulu belonged among those through the generations, who are the best representatives of the unheralded nobility of the masses of our people, the representatives who decided that their lives were worth nothing, unless they dedicated those lives to the service of all our people.

As they embarked on the long march at the head of the combat columns of liberators, having conquered the fear of what might happen to them at the hands of the oppressors of their people, ready to pay any price for the recovery of the dignity of the wretched of the earth, of them it could be said, as the poet did:

“Asinithenganga ngazo izicengo;
Asinithenganga ngayo imibengo;
Bekungenganzuzo zimakhwezi-khwezi,
Bekungenganzuzo zingangeenkwenkwezi.”

It was not our persuasion that turned you into patriots. No material offerings induced you to choose to serve the people. It was not for dazzling wealth that you chose to sacrifice your lives for the people, nor for riches as fabulous as the stars without number.

Were these heroes and heroines to perish as they fought for our emancipation, we would sing songs of praise and say:

“Kwaf’ amakhalipha, amafa-nankosi,
Agazi lithetha kwiNkosi yeeNkosi.
Ukufa kwawo kunomvuzo nomvuka.
Ndinga ndingema nawo ngomhla wovuko,
Ndingqambe njengomnye osebenzileyo,
Ndikhanye njengomso oqaqambileyo.”

We would say the braves, who would perish rather than surrender, have died. We would say their sacrifice constitutes a command even to the King of Kings. Their death gives birth to a new life and a new awakening.

Oh, that I may be counted among them on the day of their resurrection, dancing the victory dance side-by-side with them, sparkling as bright as the new dawn!

Our country, and nature herself, have been in mourning since that fateful day, the 5th of May, when Walter Sisulu ceased to breathe.

We mourned because Walter Sisulu occupied the first rank of those about whom the poet Krune Mqhayi spoke, as though he foresaw what we would have to say when Walter Sisulu died.

The poet sang his song of praise as though to give us the words we would otherwise never find, when the moment came for us to talk about Walter Sisulu, a patriot who could never be bought or corrupted or forced by fear or fashion or love of material things, to auction his soul.

I speak for our government and people when I convey our collective gratitude to the inestimable numbers at home and abroad that stood up to pay tribute to a great son of our people, Walter Sisulu, and to his immediate neighbours in his mature age, who accepted Walter and Albertina Sisulu as their own.

I thank you that you have come from far and wide to join our leader and mother, Albertina Sisulu, and all her family, as we lay the mortal remains of Walter Sisulu to rest, and for the flood of messages of comfort and condolence.

We are honoured and moved that so many leaders of the peoples of Africa, and the esteemed representatives of the governments and popular movements of our common world, have chosen to be with us at this moment, to say to MaSisulu and to our nation:

“Thuthuzelekani ngoko, zinkedama!
Ngokwenjenje kwethu sithi, yakhekani.
Lithatheni eli qhalo labadala,
Kuba bathi: ‘Akuhlanga lungehlanga!'”

Therefore be comforted, you who are in grief. We have come among you to ask you to respond to calamity with the strength of the courageous. Hear the advice of the ancestors – that what has happened is what had to be.

Since the poets have permitted that we speak as they have spoken, I will tell of the truths that the poets told.

“Ewe, le nto kakade yinto yaloo nto.
Thina, nto zaziyo, asothukanga nto;
Sibona kamhlophe sithi bekumelwe;
Sitheth’ engqondweni sithi kufanelwe;
Xa bekungenjalo bekungayi kulunga.”

Therefore, and boldly, we say:

“Death be not proud, thy hand gave not this blow…
The executioner of wrath thou art,
But to destroy the just is not thy part…

Glory not thou thy self in these hot tears
Which our face…wears:

The mourning livery given by Grace, not thee,
Which wills our souls in these streams washed should be,
And on our hearts, (his) memories best tomb,
In this (his) Epitaph doth write thy doom…”

Death be not proud!

We challenge death’s pride because we know that even as it visits its wrath on all who live, it can never destroy a human being as just as Walter Sisulu was just.

We challenge death’s vengeful pride because we know that whatever it might do, it can never remove from our hearts the memories of Walter Sisulu, which, deeply entombed in these living hearts, are his epitaph, that shall pass on from generation to generation, alive, living, immortal.

We stand up to tell death that our black mourning clothes are not a tribute to its vengeance, but a signal of salute to him who was our conscience of courage, as we struggled to extricate ourselves from a long night of despair.

We challenge death’s certainty that it laid low such an African colossus, because:

We, who have the gift of knowledge, know that the mortal frame of Walter Sisulu has departed our midst, because had it not, it would not have been faithful to the natural order of things.

We, who have the gift of knowledge, were not surprised when he left the land of the living, because we knew that our world would have been troubled, if a human being as human as Walter Sisulu was human, had been condemned to live on, a mere shadow of he that had lived among us for many decades, everyday breathing into all of us the liberating spirit of freedom.

Our thinking brains have etched on our human minds the truth that what is, including death, is what is, is what has to be, and what could not but come to be.

All mortal life that is without end turns into a curse.

Se sa feleng seya tlhola!

Sibona kamhlophe sithi bekumelwe. Xa bekungenjalo bekungayi kulunga.

Le nto kakade yinto yaloo nto!

Death be not proud! To destroy the just is not within your power!

The African colossus that lies in front of us might have fallen, but he has not died.

The flowers of the desert wither and pass beyond the vision of the human eye. And yet they live, a defining part of the uninterrupted sands of the Sahara and the Kgalagadi.

Like these living plants that clothe the African earth and her deserts when the time comes, Walter Sisulu’s life had meaning not because he lived, but because his life gave new life to the millions who are proud to call themselves African.

Even when he has passed beyond the vision of the human eye, Walter Sisulu will continue to do what he did while he lived.

He will continue, still, to breathe into all of us the liberating spirit of freedom, and give us the human courage to remain steadfast in defence of our humanity, despite the insistence of a daily world of seemingly incontrovertible truths, that instruct us that we are not quite human, being destined to beg and to bow at another’s feet, in abject and imposed humility.

While he lived, Walter Sisulu was a proud African who refused ever to beg, because his very being told him that the beggar and the benefactor would both be demeaned by the exchange. In his death, he remains an African.

While he lived, Walter Sisulu carried on his shoulders, his mind and his soul, the burdens of the poor, the oppressed and the despised of the world, forever haunted by the cries of angry despair of these teeming, toiling masses.

His living memory and the material constructions our country will build in his honour, will, for all time, tell the people he loved, the South Africans, the Africans of Africa and the African provinces elsewhere, that were carved by slavery, and the citizens of the world, that all who would rule and exercise power, must open their ears, to hear the anguished cries of the lowly folk of our world.

Though he is dead, his voice will continue to speak for the ordinary people who reside in the common global neighbourhood. His voice will continue to speak of the seeds of life that lie beneath the sands of the deserts of human poverty, to tell those who have nothing, that in time, their lives will be characterised by much, much more than a creeping accumulation of small and periodic blessings.

He will continue to talk to those who occupy the tiny spaces that provide the material circumstances for decent human existence, that are scattered in a thin belt across the face of our common globe, about the fate of those who live in the marshlands of poverty that everywhere surround the islands of prosperity.

Yesterday, our people walked bending low and low because they bore the heavy yoke of tyranny. Today they walk the land of their birth with a joyful spring in their step, as free as the birds that take to the infinite highways of the air. Today, we talk of freedom, as though yesterday never was.

Yesterday, there was fear and foreboding throughout the land. Those who had oppressed and posed as the lords of all they survey, lived in dreadful fear and trembling, seemingly protected by the same barricades of barbed wire and killer dogs and guns, that imprisoned both them and those they sought to enslave.

Today that fear of what one might to do to the other, because of the varied pigmentation of our skins, has been banished from our land, never to return. Today, we speak of a common belonging, as though yesterday never was.

Yesterday, the poor of our country knew that they were but surplus people, condemned to wither away and perish in the dehumanising squalor of conscious neglect, imposed on them by a society that had decided that to thrive, it had to feed on the blood of those it had made powerless, like a vampire.

Today, the poor of our country know that what they did to liberate themselves from the icy grip of the tyrants has turned theirs into a country of hope, dedicated to the eradication of the poverty that has been the fate of our people for generations. Today, we speak of a better life for all, as though yesterday never was.

The dreaded memory of what yesterday was, is fleeing the conscious mind as the shadows flee the rays of the sun. It has taken to flight because of what Walter Sisulu and his comrades did. Because they embedded the humanist spirit into the very soul of their struggle, their movement and their people, they defined liberty as the right of all our people to happiness and human fulfilment, though they were denounced as terrorists.

For many decades Walter Sisulu taught the mass army of liberators to hate oppression, to hate racism, to oppose the social conditions that resulted in untold violence against other human beings, to overthrow the social order that, because of deliberate policy, precise and immaculate in its design and its execution, subjected the majority to pain, indignity and humiliation and death by starvation.

But he never said that we should hate other human beings, including those that oppressed, did great harm to others, and dehumanised millions, because of the colour of their skin and because of boundless and selfish greed.

He told us that were we ever to hate other human beings, we would sacrifice our own humanity, transforming ourselves into the cannibal beasts of the wild, that do not hesitate to feed on their own kind.

He instructed us that were we ever to hate other human beings, we would corrupt a movement for human liberation, and turn it into a predatory animal whose pillars of a blind ideology would be fear and hatred that would consume us, as well.

The new South Africa that has just begun its tenth year of existence has tried to live up to these teachings, to nurture and promote the interests of all our citizens as its offspring, with none cast out as orphans.

It is because of what it has striven to do, to honour the teachings and the example set by Walter Sisulu, that today we speak of our freedom, of a common belonging, of a better life for all, as though yesterday never was.

The memory of the past flees like the frightened shadows of the night, not because we want to forget the past. It flees because we are swept along by a high tide that carries us towards the light of the rising sun.

Voices of amazement and surprise have spoken of a miracle that many things they thought impossible, have been done. They have endowed the outcomes with the attributes of a miraculous wonder.

But we who have the gift of knowledge, the people of whom the poet Krune Mqhayi spoke, know that the miracle is not in the creation, but in the creators. It is not in the outcomes, but in the blessings unbound, that gave us a Walter Sisulu, whose quiet voice and quiet ways and gentle touch, gave our people the knowledge and conscience and conviction to do what is right, the impulse to create the outcomes that evoke pride and joy in all of us, and give us cause to dance in celebration of our humanity.

A great beauty of our land and continent has passed on, a mere twenty days before we gather to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, the bearer of Africa’s and Walter Sisulu’s hopes during its time.

One that was as mighty as the baobab has fallen. But because he planted mighty seeds, he has risen again, and will rise again in the tomorrows and the new births that the African sun will bring. That sun will supply, as well, the living energy that will bring to their noble maturity, the little and tender and delicate plants that Walter Sisulu nurtured with such devotion and care, and love.

As we say farewell to this colossus that lies so peacefully in front of us, awaiting his stately transport to his final place of rest, we say to him that we know that:

“The grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee.”

“Elabafileyo alinakukuncoma,
Ukufa akunakukudumisa.”

Dearest father and honoured son of Africa, to speed your journey to your place of pride among the ancestors who guard our fortunes, we, the living, repeat after the poet, John Donne:

“But by all souls not by corruption choked
Let in high raised notes that power be invoked,
Calm the rough seas, by which (he) sails to rest,
From sorrows here, to a kingdom ever blest.
And teach this hymn…with joy, and sing,
The grave no conquest gets; Death hath no sting!”

Death hath no sting!

The living monuments to what Walter Sisulu and his comrades did, will say everything else that needs to be said.

Walter Sisulu deserves the greatest place in the sun

May 18, 2014 § 3 Comments

This column first appeared in the Cape Times in 2013. It would have been his birthday today and I felt that I needed to post this here.

Sies! How soon we forget. I fear we are forgetting a great hero. And because we want to forget, I fear that this column might not get as many readers as it should so we can remember the man.

I was angered last week when the 10th anniversary of his death went by as a mere whimper in the country he suffered for.

He did not only contribute himself to the Struggle, but he committed his whole family to it.

Walter Sisulu’s family needs to stop being humble. They are robbing a generation of young people of a great example.

On May 5, 2003, Walter Sisulu died. We are beneficiaries of his suffering.

We inherited a country he dreamed of for many years while he languished in prison, yet I fear his contribution is being forgotten; that he is being relegated to the sidelines.

He was humble, never one to boast or one to seek the limelight. It would be nice if we decided to be humble about his memory, and not brag about it, because that is what we think he would have wanted.

However, I don’t care what he would have wanted. He deserves the greatest place in the sun. He should not be hidden in the shadows when we live in the sun born of his suffering. We cannot afford to have him fade into a minor hero of the Struggle when we are what we are because of him.

Nelson Mandela never forgot him.

Who could forget the pain in his words as he spoke about his Struggle friend on May 8, 2003? “Xhamela (his clan name) is no more. May he live forever! His absence has carved a void. A part of me is gone.

“Our paths first intersected in 1941. During the past 62 years our lives have been intertwined.

“We shared the joy of living, and the pain. Together we shared ideas, forged common commitments. We walked side by side through the valley of death, nursing each other’s bruises, holding each other up when our steps faltered. Together we savoured the taste of freedom. From the moment when we first met, he has been my friend, my brother, my keeper, my comrade.”

There are few men, if any, who Mandela held in higher regard than Sisulu, yet we chose to forget him.

Mandela thinks he would not be the man he is today were it not for Sisulu.

In his book, Long Walk To Freedom, Mandela credits many people for his political education, but singles out Sisulu.

If we think Mandela is a great man, how much greater is the man who made him?

Few liberation moments have had people with no ego, who, even with a chance to elevate themselves, would instead step aside and say there is a better man for the job – and groom and mentor that man.

In a PBS interview, Sisulu said: “I thought Nelson had even better qualities than me, and I wanted him to have even more… I was also encouraged by his ability to change, by his attitude to people.”

Let not Sisulu be forgotten.

We need to boast about who he was and what he did. If there are no statues erected in his honour, we ought to erect his memory and what he did forever in our hearts and pass it on to our children.

He lived his life in the shadows because he wanted others to take the shine.

He does not deserve to live in the shadows in death too. Let us not forget to credit the man who didn’t care who took the credit for our victory against a great evil.

May the spirit of Sisulu burn brighter with each passing year.

Lupita Nyongo’s incredible speech on dark beauty

March 17, 2014 § 1 Comment

Every black woman needs to read this speech. Scratch that, every black person needs to read this speech. I agree with what she says whole heatedly. There is a terrible trap that tells black women that they need to be light-skinned to be beautiful. It is everywhere. Black is beautiful, no matter what shade of black. Be comfortable in your blackness.

Lupita’s speech

I want to take this opportunity to talk about beauty. Black beauty. Dark beauty. I received a letter from a girl and I’d like to share just a small part of it with you: “Dear Lupita,” it reads, “I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.”

My heart bled a little when I read those words. I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of The Color Purple were to me.

I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God: I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted; I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.

And when I was a teenager my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence. My mother reminded me often that she thought that I was beautiful but that was no consolation: She’s my mother, of course she’s supposed to think I am beautiful. And then Alek Wek came on the international scene. A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden, Oprah was telling me it wasn’t. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me. When I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty, but around me the preference for light skin prevailed. To the beholders that I thought mattered, I was still unbeautiful. And my mother again would say to me, “You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.” And these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.

And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What does sustain us… what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master, but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even after the beauty of her body has faded away.

And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.

“A more perfect union” my favourite Barack Obama speech

February 26, 2014 § 5 Comments

Barack Obama delivered this speech in March 2008. His campaign was in trouble after videos of his former pastor surfaced, showing him preaching divisive sermons. He said America deserved what it got on September 11. Instead of throwing the Reverend under the bus to save himself, he gave America context of his anger and that of black America’s anger. He spoke honestly about race in America. Instead of just address Wright, he spoke about America and race in America, It was a great moment of leadership at the time. This is without doubt my favourite Obama speech.

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Are Blacks and Jews too sensitive? Jewish Board of Deputies address

February 22, 2014 § 2 Comments

Late 2012, I was invited to speak at the Jewish Board of Deputies in Cape Town. DT124305

We cannot talk about freedom of expression and hate speech, nor can we ask whether Blacks and Jews are too sensitive or not, without putting tolerance on the table.

But the question arises, if we must be tolerant, how much should we tolerate? Should we have zero tolerance in order to eradicate hate speech?

The problem with zero tolerance is that you allow hate to go underground, when it should be allowed – so that we can see it. Because when we can see it, we are able to combat it. And, to a certain degree, exert some control over it.

Zero tolerance would not only mean the end of hate speech, it would also see the end of the freedom of expression because there would be zero tolerance for opinion in case it goes against views contrary to those held by a majority. There would be no room for dissent.

An end of tolerance would mean that we would have no comedians, no artists. There’s always someone offended by their work. There would be no Spear. (That image … I’m terribly sorry for bringing it up. Do excuse the pun. Or not.)

However, does tolerance mean that we have to tolerate everything? Of course not, that would be absurd. In the words of French philosopher André Comte-Sponville, “To tolerate the suffering of others, to tolerate an injustice of which we are not a victim, or an atrocity that we are spared, is not tolerance but selfish, indifferent, or worse. Tolerating Hitler meant becoming his accomplice, at least by omission or neglect, this kind of tolerance was already a form of collaboration.”

We should not tolerate things that should not be tolerated and use tolerance as an excuse.

Karl Popper in his 1962 book Open Society and its Enemies, notes that “if we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed and tolerance with them”.

Since we do not want to be destroyed we have to strike a great balance between what should be tolerated and what should not.

The right to be sensitive
Black and Jewish people have suffered at the hands of others, and for some time, the world turned a blind eye. It could be argued that since Jews came so close to destruction and blacks suffered so much, both groups are living proof of what lack of tolerance is capable of.  Perhaps we have earned the right to be sensitive. If you have never been on the receiving end of an injustice it is easy to accuse the victim of being overly sensitive. To accuse the victim is also an attempt to force him to bury the crime that was committed against him.

Sadly, when you have been a victim of a mass humanitarian crime, the crime of the past becomes part of one’s identity. This is why blacks and Jews can be – can rightly be – sensitive when attacked. It is precisely because all things started out as language before  progressing into actions that resulted in one form of oppression or another.

That is, blacks are particularly sensitive to being told to get over apartheid. Asking black South Africans to get over apartheid is like asking Jews to get over the holocaust. We will never get over it, and we should never forget what happened. The criminal cannot tell the victim to get over it.

But as much as I might not agree with a person telling black people to get over apartheid, I will defend the jack-ass’s right to speak his foolishness.

It could be argued that since Jews came so close to destruction and black suffered so much, that both groups are living proof of what a lack of tolerance can do to a people.

Let us not forget that people who are extraordinarily sensitive to slights can also be the first ones to laugh when someone who does not belong to their group is being mocked. If one is a true advocate of an equal and free society, then we must be equally offended when some group other than the one to which we belong is unnecessarily and unjustly injured. We should not remain silent when the people we do not like are the target of hate speech. You can dislike someone but still respect, protect and be a defender of their rights. If we only demand justice for people we like then we are not just.

It is inconsistent with free speech to only defend it when people are trying to silence you.

It is not enough that we are against hate speech, but we have to support free speech, especially when we do not agree with the content of what is said – within reason. Free speech is not only free when others say what we agree with, it also remains free speech even when we disagree.

Do blacks and Jews people get away with more because of the history of their suffering, for example? Do we allow blacks and Jews to get away with more? Can they say things that others cannot say? We all know that we can. Should we be more sensitive to other people’s cultures when we speak on contentious issues?

Sensitivities have to be considered. For example, when the premier of the Western Cape made her now very infamous “refugee” and “professional black” comments earlier this year, I didn’t think she was racist nor did I think she was abusing the privileges she had been given in the Constitution.

But free speech comes with responsibilities and one must also accept the consequences that may come with that responsibility. The consequences of coming close to the line are not predetermined; they often come up when one doesn’t even expect them to. Helen Zille did not expect the firestorm that came with her saying the things she said. It was just a case of lack cultural sensitivity.

At the time, I said that the premier failed to apologise but instead, went down the meandering river of defending what should not be defended. She failed to be humble yet strong. To apologise yet make a point. Which was not surprising because the humility and sensitivity index is at an all time low in politics.

Considering her position in society, she ought to have been more sensitive about what she was going to say, particularly for someone who is the leader of an opposition that is under constant scrutiny – with the ANC always waiting for her to say something which can make it shout, “You are a racist!”

The unfortunate consequence of the sensitivity deficit is that when one speaks, and the language used lacks cultural sensitivity, everything that was said before or after is lost as we all focus on the cultural sensitivities. And then the point one was trying to make gets lost.

In the case of politicians, leaders have a greater responsibility to be culturally sensitive than ordinary citizens.

We all remember when the ANC organised a march against the Goodman Gallery demanding the removal of the now very famous Spear painting. We all remember the tragic events that a few weeks ago when mineworkers were shot and killed. There was no march by the ANC. A few days after the event I wrote the following tweet, “If only the ANC could be as mad about poverty and the events at Lonmin as it was about the Spear.”

The president was offended and so was the ANC. We too were expected to be offended because the president was offended. And I did find the painting to be offensive, but it still had the right to exist.

The right not to be offended is not in Constitution. As Ricky Gervais so eloquently put it: “Just because you are offended doesn’t mean you’re in the right.” We mistakenly think that because we are offended we must be right. Which of course is not always true.

As I’ve said before, “The office [of president] has to be treated with dignity, for the citizen who holds it is our ambassador to the world. He represents us equally, whether one voted for or against him, he is our president. People do not deserve respect because of the office they hold; they deserve it because of their character. If the office of the president deserves respect, then whoever holds the office should treat with the respect it deserves.”

What is the role of the artist? The artist is not meant to paint according to his or her race, but according their consciousness. Brett Murray was not being racist nor insensitive when he painted his painting. Art has a role in contemporary society to provoke, to say that which others are afraid to say in public. It is also there to reflect the views of a society at that given time in moment. It is there to be a mirror – to reveal to us what we are or what we have become. If you look in the mirror to find a fat person staring back, it’s you!

South Africa is a wounded society. The cut is too recent. The wound is too deep. The scab has not healed. And with each poke, the wound reminds us that it is still there.

We can all philosophise and discuss these things. But people are not constitutions. They are living breathing human beings. All we really have to be and remember is that we are human beings on a human journey. That if we treat people as we wish to be treated then we would all be okay and we might not need to have a written Constitution. But unfortunately we do need it for our own sake.

This is an edited version of an address Khaya Dlanga delivered at the Cape Jewish Board of Deputies “Censor/tivity” Conference: Freedom of Expression & Hate Speech in 21st Century South Africa on September 9 2012.

What it’s like being a creative at an agency

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Many years ago when I worked as a copywriter for a large ad agency in Cape Town, I was asked to answer questions for our monthly newsletter sent by some interns and people who had just started working in advertising.

I hope I have answered your questions to your satisfaction, if they are not I am not bothered because I am satisfied. No, that wasn’t arrogant at all, that was me being a humble creative.

  • Well, being a creative is easier than it looks. It’s also more difficult than it looks.
  • To answer your question, I don’t know what we do and I don’t know how we do it. All I know is that somehow, it gets done. And we end up with ads.
  • I like my job except for the days I don’t.
  • No, there is no particular place I think best. Although it’s always nice to think outside the office. I am always on the job, it doesn’t matter what I am doing. Oh, what do you know, I just had another award winning idea!
  •  How do I take it when my ideas get rejected?  Well, I am well versed in the art of accepting rejection. I often get told, “Let’s just be friends,” at least three times a week. This is excellent training.
  • Yes, I have won many awards but these awards have not been able to get rid of my feelings of inadequacy and getting laid is still proving rather difficult to impossible. Mostly impossible. Actually, always impossible.
  • Absolutely, there is room for promotion, you can become a CD, no not that one, but a Creative Director, Executive Creative Director and the pinnacle is World Wide Chief Creative Officer. Or you can just start your own ad agency with your name on the building.
  • Would I like my name on an agency? What kind of question is that? What kind of egomaniac do you think I am? Of course, silly.
  • The great thing about being a creative is that when you daydream, nobody asks you what you are doing. This is what we get paid to do.
  •  Deadlines? What’s that? Oh? You mean this was due two days ago?

The most ganstar parking you will ever see

February 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Never ever accept reality as an end

February 3, 2014 § 7 Comments

I was going through my stuff the other day and I found a journal I had when I was in my early 20s. I remember it, but I didn’t know what I had in it. When I went through it, it was emotional for me because it brought back some really tough moments in my life to mind.

I wrote the following paragraphs during a very difficult and challenging period in my life, I had just come out of being homeless. Literally homeless, not squatting at  friend’s houses or anything like that. Having absolutely nowhere to go. (I will elaborate on this in my new book which will be released in September 2014). I was 21/22 when I wrote the journal.

I wrote the following:

I believe this to be true for anyone who wants to achieve anything in life: never accept reality as an end. If we only ever face reality as an end; if we only ever face and accept our current difficulties, our reality we are doomed. It is imperative that I live in a world inside my head, a world that is not realistic. By that I mean believing in a truth that isn’t yet. But a truth nonetheless which I will create in the future.

One must face reality and the facts, but even more important is pointing out the reality that will be to yourself. When someone says, “Face reality,” they are telling you to forget your dream and what you know you want to do with every single fiber of your being, they are telling you to forget that you know you can do it even though it is damn hard at the time. I choose to answer in the following manner, “Yes, I will, but I choose to face, to create the future reality I want, not the one you want me to.” And refuse to subject myself to the narrow present reality.

Coca-cola’s 2014 Superbowl ad

February 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Coca-Cola chose to celebrate America’s future with this ad. A nation of immigrants and people from different nations. Americans are very touchy about their anthem, but this was not the anthem, it’s America the Beautiful. Americans also love their English. Instead of presenting us with that America, the Coca-Cola team celebrated America’s diversity… by having America the Beautiful sung in different languages by all sorts of diverse people. A brave and beautiful move. And I know I am not being biased.


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