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.

I have a dream

August 28, 2013 § 3 Comments

Let me let you in on something

The year was 2007 and I had been making YouTube videos for a few months. I was one of very few black video bloggers at the time. I felt very safe to make them at the time because there were no South Africans on YouTube back then. What I started noticing was that black video bloggers always got vicious racist comments all the time, so I made I Have YouTube Dream “speech” (see below). I had never seen such pure hatred in my life. The things said to me were beyond shocking.

Luckily, I rarely ever had to respond and users who followed my videos would respond on my behalf and attack the racists.  I wrote my own version of the I Have A Dream speech, I fumble every now and then as I tried to remember what I had memorised. When I made it, it also happened to be Black History month in the US. The video became popular fast. So, one early morning in February when I woke up, I saw that YouTube had actually featured this video on it’s front page. I was the first South African featured on YouTube’s front page. I even got an email from the co-founder of the site, Steve Chen. I nearly died. Below is the email from Mr Chen. Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 8.32.27 AM

Back then, YouTube looked after the little guys, we were a community. As consumption patterns on YouTube changed, so did the site. The community sort of vanished. I made a great friends on the internet I had never met and will most probably never meet most of them. It was my first social network. YouTube opened a lot of doors for me. If you watch the video, please see it in the context I have described above, it was not meant to demean Dr King’s work at all, it was a response to the racism that was happening on YouTube at the time, and YouTube had recognised it as a problem as well, I suspect that was the reason the video was put on the front page.

Power to the participant, my TedEx Soweto talk

August 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

I was invited to speak at the TedEx Soweto three years ago. My talk was called Power to the Participant.

I wonder if Mandela feels like my grandmother at this point in time

June 11, 2013 § 15 Comments

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Old people die because they are old not because they are sick. On January 27 2011, after Nelson Mandela’s hospitalization, he released the following statement, “I am not sick, I am old.”

His most recent hospitalization reminded me of old people within my family. My mother’s side of the family has been blessed with longevity. My grandfather, Alfred Kaiser Boyce, had four siblings, all of them died over the age of 85 bar one who lived a short life of 66 years. To the rest of her siblings, it was like she died a mere teenager. The oldest was 98 when she passed on, although I have even heard that she was 108 according to some accounts because there was no birth certificate. My grandfather was 87 when he finally made the curtain call.

I remember one of his siblings, Nofour Boyce (yes, that was her name), who got married into the Dandalas, who passed away at the ripe old age of 94, was old as far back as I can remember. She was always old, always had a walking stick, always wore glasses and her hair was always grey. She was never young in eyes.

My grandfather, Kaiser Boyce, would visit her every single day. They lived in the same village some 3 kilometers apart. They would sit on her veranda all day talking, sometimes my grandfather would leave in a huff and get on his horse because of some argument they might have had. Yet he’d be back the next day.

After his wife, Victoria Boyce, passed on, he’d get on one of his horses to visit his sister more frequently than before. More often than not, the horse he rode was Commando, his favourite one. I remember how mad he would get if he gave one of his horses to someone for one errand or another and it was returned with sweat stains. That always told him that whoever rode the horse rode it hard and didn’t much care for it. The culprit would never ever be given one of his horses ever again.

I was not in the village when he passed away a few years ago. He was in extreme pain from his illness for a long time. Seeing him in pain, pained us. It was as if pain was slowly taking life away from him every time he had to be rushed to hospital. When he eventually passed away, there was a sad relief that the pain had finally decided to give him rest.

Nofour was left alone when he died. Her husband had passed away in the early 70s. Perhaps my grandfather felt a brotherly responsibility towards his older sister. He was after all the only male out of all his siblings. As Xhosa culture dictates, he had to be the man of the house now.

Nofour Dandala became really lonely when Kaiser Boyce passed away. There was no one old enough to share the memories of old with. And she became very sickly. Every now and then she would be rushed to hospital after she turned 87. When she fell sick, she would ask the villagers to call a priest for her because she thought she was going to die. When the priest did eventually arrive she would chase him away.

As she advanced further in years, her memory started to fade and so did her eye sight, so much so that even the glasses did not seem to help. She began to forget her grandchildren too. Yet she never forgot me even though I was not one of her direct grandchildren, I was her brother’s grandchild. Perhaps that was because I’d visit her with my grandfather as a child.

One day while I was visiting her at the hospital in Johannesburg a few weeks before she passed away, she said to me, “You know my child, I realized my mind was not what it used to be when I asked for my brother a few years ago. I was angry because he had stopped visiting me. I was so mad at him. I wanted to know why. Then I was told that he had passed away, and that I had been at the funeral. I cannot tell you the pain I felt that day, missing my brother and realizing that my mind is also going. I know that it is time for me to go now to be with my siblings.  When you are old and have no one, you just want to go because you are just tired.” A few days after that she stopped talking all together. My cousin and I would go to her bedside everyday and we’d joke amongst ourselves, every now and then, we’d see a faint smile through her closed eyes and through the pipe in her mouth.

Now, as Mandela has gone on another hospital trip, I wonder if he feels like my grandmother, or as we called her, uKhulu.

English is not my mother’s tongue

May 21, 2013 § 15 Comments

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Excerpt from my book, In My Arrogant Opinion

English is a difficult language with excellent public relations. If you speak English, and have the added bonus of speaking it well with a great accent, you are suddenly propelled into the class of the intelligent. You are not even required to have achieved anything.

I’m not the world’s most articulate person. I hate my voice. I hate hearing it, which seems like a great contradiction considering how often I am caught speaking. If talking were like a speeding fine, I’d have many of those fines because I talk whenever there is an opportunity to do so, particularly about subjects I am interested in.

In the apartheid years, my mother sent me to a Catholic boarding school in the small town of Qumbu in the Transkei. The name of the school was Little Flower Junior Secondary School and it went from Sub A to Standard 7. Little Flower J.S.S. You know you went to a hood school when your school’s name ends with a J.S.S. – and it didn’t have a school song, even though it was probably the most prestigious school in the Transkei.

All children were forbidden from speaking Xhosa or any language other than English. When you arrived at the school for the first time, you were given leeway to include Xhosa in your English until month three. After that you were expected to have mastered the English language. Most of us had never spoken a word of English prior to when we were accepted into the school. Myself included.

The principal of the school was an imperious nun with a slightly short right leg. Her right shoe always had a thicker sole. Her name was Sister Daniel and she was Austrian. She really enforced the use of English in the school despite her Austrian background.

One day, my Standard 3 teacher was off sick. As a result, Standards 2 and 3 had to be combined. We were instructed to remain silent for the remainder of the day. I said something to a friend who was sitting next to me. Then another thing. The teacher caught me whispering and she told me to ‘Shush’ with the authority of a feared teacher. I shut up. Immediately. Unfortunately, I have a very short attention span …

I said something else to my friend. She caught me again and summoned me and my innocent friend to her desk. Then she said, ‘Go to Sister Daniel’s office and tell her that you spoke in class!’ Now, it is true that I had spoken in class. But unfortunately, lunch was an hour away. Let me explain why this was unfortunate. Don’t worry; there is a point to this story.

If you were caught shouting, speaking in class when you were not supposed to, or speaking Xhosa, it was tickets. A piece of brown masking tape would be put on your mouth for three hours. If your three hours fell between meal times, sorry for you, no eating. We ate meat three times a week. And the day the teacher told me to go to the principal’s office to get my mouth decorated with masking tape was one of those meat days. I was not about to go down like that. I must have been 11 at the time. I wanted my meat and I was not about to miss it just because I had spoken in class when I wasn’t supposed to. I guess one could say that there was a thin line between abuse and discipline then.

My friend was the first one to walk out the class. I was very close to the door when I turned back to the teacher and said, ‘Sorry Miss.’ I took one step closer to her desk. She carried on looking at her notes or marking or doing whatever it is that teachers do when they are not teaching.  I inched another step closer and said, ‘Sorry Miss’. Each time she ignored me but I carried on until I was very close to her table. She got up wielding a stick, which encouraged me to get out of the class with great speed.

A minute later, I stepped back into the class without having gone to the principal’s office and said again, ‘Sorry Miss.’ This time, she laughed and said, ‘That’s very manly of you.’ She let me back in the class. Sometimes persistence pays off because I didn’t get any masking tape and I enjoyed my lunch. Yellow samp, cabbage and a boiled chicken wing. It had no flavour, but it was the tasting meat I ever had because I was this close to not having it.

My story is not as tragic as that of Thobile. Thobile was a big, burly, dark young boy. He had the strength of a bull and no one ever messed with him. We had been at Little Flower boarding school for eight months at the time. Unfortunately for Thobile, it took him a really long time for him to learn to speak in English.

One day Thobile needed to sharpen his pencil. We were in Standard 2 and were only allowed to use pencils when writing. Cursive was a big deal back then. Another boy was already standing over the dustbin sharpening his pencil. He was the smallest boy in the class and constantly seeking the teacher’s approval. I saw him hand a sharpener to Thobile and then approach the teacher, Mrs Landu.

‘Thobile just spoke Xhosa, Miss,’ he whispered to Mrs Landu just loud enough for the rest of the class to hear, but faking discretion at the same time. Thirty ten-year-olds looked up from their books in horror. ‘He did what?’ We were all thinking it.

‘What did he say?’Mrs Landu asked.

‘He said, “Khawuthi umshini ndithishwele-shwele.”’ (‘Give me the sharpener so that I can just, quick, quick.’) Upon hearing this horror – a child speaking his mother tongue in class – Mrs Landu summoned Thobile to her desk and picked up her stick. Corporal punishment was very legal back then.

She made him lift his hand and began hitting him.

‘What did I say, Thobile?’ Mrs Landu asked as she struck him.

‘Did you say Miss! Did you say Miss!’ Thobile tried in his best English while screaming from the pain.

‘What did I say, Thobile?’ Mrs Landu asked him again as her stick repeatedly came down on his hand.

‘Did you say Miss! Did you say Miss!’ Thobile failed again to respond in appropriate English. He was struggling to say, ‘You said we shouldn’t speak Xhosa, Miss.’ His bad English still amused us even after eight months in the school, but we didn’t laugh out loud, of course. It was not his mother’s tongue. And I do know that it is ‘mother tongue’ in case you wanted to correct me. I know you blacks. Always correcting someone’s English. It’s for emphasis, dear reader.

Thobile was sent to the principal’s office. Masking tape was put over his mouth and he missed his lunch. We learned that it was bad to speak Xhosa. One’s mother tongue was inferior to English.

Thus we participated in the suppression of our languages from a very early age. No one objected to it and no one saw anything wrong with it. But today I feel for Thobile because I realise that he was being made to feel bad and somehow less than for speaking his language.

What makes learning English doubly tough, are the blacks. Yes. The blacks. The people of the melanin-advantaged sort, of which I am a member.

Why do I say such a thing? Well, for one thing, no one laughs harder at another black person who has just mispronounced an English word than black people. Perhaps the laugh is some sort of superiority complex that makes people feel a little bit better about themselves because they have mastered the master’s language, and so they mock the poor victims of George.

Don’t worry, I’ll explain who George is in case you are wondering – but he isn’t who you expect him to be – if you are a member of the melanin-disadvantaged persuasion, that is.

Funnily enough, no one laughs or mocks another black person who mispronounces a word in their indigenous African languages. There is no pointing, no laughing. Unless, of course, it is about the word ‘ukunyoba’. For some reason, this word takes people back to their schoolgoing days.

The word for bribe in Xhosa is ‘ukunyoba’. In Zulu, the very same word actually means, ‘hanky-panky’ or ‘sex’, if you prefer. Perhaps the two words are rather apt because when it comes to bribery, someone gets screwed in the end. But I digress.

There are many examples of us laughing at other black people for mispronouncing English words. Our most prominent example at the moment is Jacob Zuma. When he makes speeches, people will more often than not comment on his pronunciation rather than the contents of his speech. Words such as ‘management’ depart from his tongue and reach our ears over the airwaves sounding like ‘man-age-ment’. I never laugh at the president’s pronunciation, mainly because I mispronounce about 60% of English words. Although, to be honest, I can’t help laughing at how he reads. We all know how he reads. The following is inspired by the work of that South African fellow now in Hollywood, Trevor Noah.

Pretend that the following sentence comes from his mouth. It is. Very. Diffi-cult to. Follow the. Presi-dent’s. Speeches sometimes.

I, like the president, wasn’t born speaking English. Most black South Africans were not born speaking it either. So it is not, whatchamacallit? It is not our mother’s tongue. This language, which came to South Africa on a ship, has another name. Many black South Africans call it ‘George’, after King George of England. There is something deeply disturbing about how George has taken over the life of the ordinary black South African. In fact, it is not so much that English is here. It is the manner in which we are allowing it to obliterate the rest of the African languages. Particularly for the privileged agent blacks.

Who are the agent blacks? I count myself in this group. We are the ones who went to what were formerly Model C schools after the election of Nelson Mandela as the first democratic president of South Africa. These schools only offered English and Afrikaans, and some an African language, but the African languages were never given the same status as English or Afrikaans.

So we decided to study Afrikaans instead of our languages. It is no wonder then that some schools have decided to drop teaching Xhosa and Zulu even though Xhosa and Zulu are the two most spoken languages in the country. We can’t blame the white man for this one. We have to blame ourselves and our government for allowing it to happen. It is shameful. Can you imagine England deciding not to teach English anymore? We have shortchanged ourselves.

We need to save our languages. Mother tongue languages have to be compulsory in schools. We shouldn’t even be debating this.

Trully Romantic: My grandparent’s romantic story for the ages

May 10, 2013 § 2 Comments

Extract from my book, In My Arrogant Opinion

 

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The very first sound I ever made was neither in Xhosa nor English; it was that universal wail all babies make. I cried, at least that’s what I imagine happened. Maybe I cried because I was naked and was feeling a little embarrassed. Or was it because I was aware of how small my penis was and my hands were too short, and my muscles too weak, for me to stretch my hands to hide it? I will never remember. It could be argued that I suffered a premature onslaught of Alzheimer’s, but it’s something all babies share – forgetting where they come from. No memory of their history …

It was a dark and stormy night in April when I was born. I’m not joking. I was born in a hut in the house of my grandfather, Alfred Kaiser Boyce, uSnama, Rhadu, Somadoda, amalandelwa yintombi ithindizeke nobaawunankomo! (S’nama, Rhadu, Somadoda, the ones who get followed by girls saying, ‘marry me even if you have no cows!’). You will be excused for thinking that Alfred Kaiser Boyce was a white man. He was not; he was as Xhosa as they come.

I was born in the small rural village of Dutyini just outside the small town of Mount Ayliff in the Transkei. My grandfather was married to Marhadebe, Victoria Boyce. The story of how they got married is as romantic as any one I have heard. Xhosa men back then were not known for their romance, not that they are now. However, I imagine I am, rather (Hello, ladies). Perhaps I should tell the story of how they got married, very briefly.

Before they got married, my grandfather (Kaiser or K as he was called by everyone in the village) and grandmother had been dating. Kaiser was very popular with the ladies because of his looks, charm, wit and his above-average education. Unlike many young black men in his time, he had gone all the way to Grade 8. A major achievement.

My grandmother, Victoria Mthimkhulu, wasn’t known as the best-looking woman around. But she had the most incredible sprit of any human being I have ever met. My grandfather had four sisters. As anyone with many sisters will know, they always have an opinion about any woman you decide you like. They could never understand his fixation on my grandmother. According to them, he was far superior to her in looks. They even called her ugly. He would respond by saying, ‘Ifigure yakhe!’ (‘What a fine figure she has!’).

He was also taken with her conservatism, politeness, steadfastness, Christian poise and the fact that she could read and write, something uncommon for women in her village at the time. I’ll never forget that when some white came to our distant village once, my grandfather was away and there was only one person who could speak to that person — my grandmother. I was too young and my English nonexistent, so I have no clue what they talked about.

My grandfather didn’t have much money so he wasn’t able to pay her lobola (dowry) right away. While he was chilling, some other fellow, a rich man in the area, paid lobola for my grandmother. Custom dictated then that if your parents had an agreement with another girl’s parents, you were supposed to marry that person, even though you had never dated. It was effectively an arranged marriage. And so it was that my grandmother was married to another man.

Upon hearing the news, Kaiser would have none of it. He hatched a plan immediately. He was in love so there was no chance in hell that some random dude, no matter how much money he had, would beat him to the punch, even if he had already beaten him to the punch.

He sent a message to my grandmother that he planned to take her from her new in-laws. She agreed to the plan only if he promised that he would pay lobola by a certain time.

In a cavalier fashion, within days of my grandmother’s marriage, my grandfather and his friends invaded the new home of his now married lover and took her. She was basically kidnapped (‘waathwalwa’).

Ukuthwalwa was not unheard of then. But to ukuthwala a woman who was already married to another man was something new altogether.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, my grandfather eventually gathered a few cattle and paid lobola for my grandmother and they lived happily until death parted them.

These were the people who raised me for the first ten years of my life. The idea that I could grow up to be anything I wanted to be is something that I observed in them; it’s not something that I would say they taught me.

My mother would come to visit Dutyini from the township of Mdanstane, just outside East London where she worked. I never really knew what to say to her because she was this beautiful woman who I was too scared to touch because I was afraid of making her dirty. She always seemed so out of place and too beautiful to be in the village. Years later, I found out that she would cry every time she left for East London, she found it unbearable that she had to leave her children behind in the rural life while she went back to an easier existence in the township.

My early education happened in this village. The teachers had an inferior education, which meant they transferred inferior knowledge to children who were already disadvantaged by life. One of my classrooms accommodated both the Grade 1s and Grade 2s. There were times when we couldn’t use the classrooms because they were being used for something else.

They say that these early years are what make us who we are. If those years made me who I am, I am grateful for them. By the time I was ten, I was a certified delinquent. I had already quit smoking weed and moved on to other things. I guess what I’m saying is that it is a miracle that I have written this book. And I want to thank everyone who has played a part in my life.

The best exit letter ever. He deserves to be hired.

April 15, 2013 § 2 Comments

This young man, Richard Tseng, is one of 20 people who were retrenched from an ad agency in Canada last week.

The very same agency had to get rid of another 20 last months. He wrote one of the classiest exit letters I have ever read. He is a copywriter. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s someone who writes ads. That’s not all but it’s the simplest explanation. If I were an Executive Creative Director, I would hire him immediately. I wouldn’t even ask to see his portfolio. His letter says everything about his character, sincerity and his ethic. If I made a mistake hiring him, I’d be glad I did. Here is his exit letter:

In Canada’s frozen north, during a particularly harsh winter, a starving Eskimo tribe (Inuit for the politically correct) was forced to abandon their eldest matron on the ice. Being a tough old broad, she followed her clan for several days, making sure to keep just out of sight.

One day, a polar bear happened upon her. Taking her for a straggler and an easy meal it strolled up to her, mouth open, ready to swallow with one gulp. The Eskimo lady waited and, once in range, plunged her walking stick down the bear’s gullet.

Hours later the clansmen could see her, cresting a snow hill, dragging behind her enough meat to feed the whole tribe.

Times are tough, and circumstances beyond anybody’s control have dictated that I must leave. Totally understand. But, as Rahm Emanuel would say, “Never fucking waste a fucking crisis, fucker.” Which is another way of saying that it’s actually an opportunity. And I intend on seizing it.

So thanks to every member of this tribe called Arnold. It’s been an honor and pleasure working with you. I hope our paths cross again. Who knows? I might even be back one day. Hopefully with enough polar bear sushi to share.

In the words of a fellow young Canadian:

Never say never,
Rich Tseng

That’s right, he quoted Justin Bieber.

Open Letter to the ANC by Malema

January 13, 2013 § 3 Comments

Originally appeared on my News24 column; 2012-03-02 07:37

Dear African National Congress,

I feel like you unfriended me on Facebook and then put it up on your status update so that everyone knows the cruel thing you have you done. You have no shame! Actually, I can even think of a worse example. It’s like we were very much in love. So in love in fact that our relationship status updates said, “The African National Congress is in a relationship with Julius Malema.”

Now your relationship status update says, “The African National Congress is no longer in a relationship with Julius Malema.” Do you know how embarrassing this is? Everyone can see it! Plus there is that dreaded broken red heart thing there. And I simply cannot believe that there are 23 034 people who have clicked “like” under my broken heart! Like! They clicked the like button! They are all bloody agents! The lot of them!

You bloody agents have kicked me out of your revolutionary house! Like a thing! As if I have rubbish in my trouser! Comrade Thabo Mbeki would never have done this to me! Viva Thabo Mbeki viva!

I called him worse names than the Shower man while he was president, yet he did not see it fit for me to face a disciplinary hearing because he realised that we are still children who are in need of learning and schooling. Although truth be told, we actually schooled him by kicking him out of the presidency – and look at the price I am paying now. He is still one of the best ANC presidents we have ever had. Viva president Thabo Mbeki viva!

The Shower man is trying very hard to extinguish the fire in the belly of the youth. In fact, the shower is un-African because there is no word for it in Pedi

It has to be said that it is rather weird that I used to say that there are no guaranteed or permanent positions in the ANC – I used to say that as a threat to the president of the ANC. Ironically, I lost my position first! What kind of muti is that man using? Much force this one’s muthi has. Learn from him, I must. My own personal Yoda of muthi I need.

I’m so bitter right now that I have a good mind to beat up those tjatjarag National Disciplinary Committee members with a plank from one of my woodwork pieces, which were somehow never appreciated. In all fairness, my woodwork results and my other marks should never have been released. However, I suspect that some agents from the West were responsible.

Yes, I do have some moments of self-doubt now. Did I do the right thing? Should I have stuck to my guns? It made a lot of sense to me to be defiant because the president of this organisation once compared me to another great revolutionary, Nelson Mandela. He said that Mandela was also rebellious when he was defending me. I should have known that was a launch.

But in all honesty, I am sorry, but I will never repeat this on a public platform. My life won’t be the same. You may have rejected me but I am still in love with the ANC. I know that I may seem desperate but the only thing I am desperate for is your love.

Maybe I should stop blaming others for my actions.
Maybe I should take responsibility.
Maybe I should think back and re-evaluate my life.
Maybe I should apologise to those who saw potential in me, I didn’t mean to disappoint you.
Maybe I should say sorry. Maybe I will.
Even though you have rejected me ANC, I am still in love with you.

In the words of Adele:
“I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it.
I had hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded
That for me it isn’t over.

“Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don’t forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
‘Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead'”

I know I sound stalkerish and unstable but you’ve got to understand that I’m hurt right now. You’re bloody agents but I still love you ANC. Love live the spirit of the ANC even though you have rejected one of your own.

From Malema

My most extensive interview by Divasinc. Got me to say things I’ve never said about myself.

January 13, 2013 § 2 Comments

 

If you want to know me a little better, here is an interview conducted by Divas Inc, This is the link to the original interview. The original interview has pictures too. Click here to go that one instead or carry on reading here

Stimulating conversation, some introspection, a lot of good laughs, a sprinkling of some cringe worthy revelations and a bird’s eye view on the world – that’s what my morning with Khaya Dlanga yields. Patriarch of the ‘Towners’ and one of South Africa’s most outrageously opinionated columnists, Khaya is also one of the smartest and funniest people you’ll ever meet. Currently the Senior Communications Manager for Coca Cola South Africa, with an advertising resume that boasts of brands with a lot of clout the likes of Virgin, Nandos, Hyundai, 1LifeDirect, Musica and an array of awards to back up his reputation as one of the best in the industry, Khaya is an inspiration. But unlike Oprah or Bill Gates, he’s an ‘inspiration’ you also want to take home to meet the parents. As one of the Divas Inc team members so aptly put it – ‘A ‘sexy’ mind – that’s the magic of Khaya Dlanga’

Ok, 1st off, just to break the ice, can you give us a glimpse into who Khaya Dlanga is?

I honestly never know how to answer that question (laughs)

Why not? You’ve lived with yourself for quite a while now so if anyone should know, it’s you.

I don’t know what the question means. Do I talk about where I’m from? Do I talk about where I was born or how I was raised? I never know where to start.

Ok let’s talk about who Khaya is now and we can go back to Khaya growing up later on. Who is Khaya the man today?

Who am I? I think even now I’m still trying to figure that out. I’m still trying to answer that question. I do have an idea but I think it’s very difficult for me to try and put that into words and say ‘This is Khaya Dlanga’ today. I’m a very complex guy, I do know this. There are many facets to me that I just cannot verbalise.

Let’s start from the beginning then and talk about Khaya the young boy. What kind of child were you growing up?

I was a good child but I was also a bad child (laughs)…

So the complexity started when you were a kid I see?

Yeah (laughs) I did all the things expected of me then. For example, I grew up with my grandmother and she raised me till I was about 9 when she passed away, and because of her I didn’t swear growing up and up till today I cannot bring myself to doing it. But in the same breath, I started bunking school from as early as 9years old and I had been smoking weed by the time I was 10 and was getting high on petrol fumes… so I guess that kind of cancelled out the not swearing bit (laughs) But I must say overall I was a pretty decent child and my mom every now and then always says how proud she is of how I’ve turned out.

Yeah, I’m sure. Especially for a guy who was smoking up petrol fumes by10…

Yeah, absolutely (Laughs) I’ve turned out ok.

When did this love for words and expressing yourself through word start? What gave birth to the ‘opinionated Khaya’ we all know today?

My love for words really started when my mother started forcing me to read.  I was probably around 11 at that time…

So you were reading when you were high…?

(Laughs) Oh no. I’d quit by then. I’d kicked my habit by the time I was 11. So I started reading and I hated it at first because my mother was ‘making’ me do it. I remember they were these short stories by Alan Paton that she made me read and I became an insatiable reader from then on. I spent so much time in the library when I was in school and after school I’d go to the town library just so I could read. And If I didn’t feel like going to the library I’d go to CNA where I’d read magazines and books. I’d just read. When I was in Standard 7 our teacher made us write an essay about a building that was collapsing – an implosion- and we were meant to describe it as it was happening – the smells, the sounds, the dust, everything – and I was just like ‘this is so cool’ . I wrote that and I did really really well at it and I remember thinking to myself ‘I think I really like this writing thing’. So then when I was in Standard 8 or 9, I can’t remember – It’s a long time ago (laughs)- my English teacher then – and this was a time when we had very few blacks in these schools , I think we were only 2 in my class- she was still new and she made us write an essay and at the end of the week she was giving us back our graded essays but she didn’t give me back mine so I was like ‘What the hell?’ I go to her desk and she’s like ‘Did you write this?’ and I say that I did and she’s like ‘Ok, what does this word mean?’ and I told her what it meant then she picked another word and another one and by the time we got to the 3rd word I was just like ‘Excuse me, but if you’d actually done your homework you’d know I constantly get the highest marks when it comes to creative writing in this class’…

Aah. So this was one of your very 1st ‘Excuse me, but in my ‘arrogant opinion’ moments…

(Laughs) In all seriousness – It was really not because I was being arrogant. It was because I was offended by what her actions implied. Her actions implied ‘How can you know all this and write so well when you’re black’ so I told her I had actually got the highest marks in our last exam. She asked me what that was and I told her to look at the marks and see for herself which she did and she gave me the same exact mark. That was actually pretty annoying – but yeah – that’s the story of me and my early writing years. It was a traumatic beginning (laughs)

So you love to read and you absolutely love to write but what were the dreams and aspirations for Khaya back then? What did you want to become?

You know – I think as a kid sometimes you say you want to do something but the question is ‘is that really what you want to do or are you just saying it because that’s what’s expected of you. I grew up in a very rural setting and I remember I used to say that I wanted to be a cop or I wanted to be a soldier because there were no other options for me. I didn’t know any other options besides those. And I‘ll never forget because there were a lot of people that would come from the rural areas to work in the mines in Joburg and that was almost set as a high aspiration for us where it was like ‘Be strong now then at least you can go and work in the mines’ so if you picked up a heavy object or something like that; that was what was always said. So where I grew up, one’s aspirations were always very very low because that’s all people knew. I think subconsciously I always thought I would end up working in the mines – even though I didn’t want to. They tried to sell it to me and make it into this glamorous thing but I knew it wasn’t. To be honest, I didn’t know what I really wanted to be and it was only in Standard 8 that I knew. I knew then I wanted to do advertising.

Ok, so you finish school and you have this huge dream of getting into advertising but this is set against a backdrop where you either became a cop, a soldier or a mine worker. How do you make it happen?

Wow. I came from a very challenged background. I was raised by a single mother – my father passed when I was about 4 or5 and my mom took me back to East London to live with her after my grandmother died.  You know the typical 4 roomed house in the townships? We actually shared it with another family so one section was theirs and the other half was ours. Because of the situation, I had to sleep in the kitchen with my brother and my mom and my sister would be in the one bedroom.  And I remember being very embarrassed because I went to a good school and I’d never invite my friends to my house because I didn’t want them to see where I stayed. We didn’t even have electricity so for me it was just like ‘I‘ll never embarrass myself like that’. And I remember when I was in school I always thought ‘ Am I actually ever going to be able to get out of this and do something with my life’ It was my dream to get into advertising but it seemed so unreachable because I knew my mother wouldn’t be able to afford it. She hadn’t worked for years and I remember for school trips I would never even tell her when there was one scheduled because I would rather get detention than have her feel insufficient because she couldn’t afford to pay for me go.  I didn’t want to make her struggle any more than she already was.

After school, I wanted to go to AAA to study but I knew if I applied when everyone was applying around September they probably wouldn’t accept me because I wouldn’t have the money so I remember beginning of Feb the following year I had R500 to my name, I took a taxi from Mdantsane to Cape town, which was like R200 of the R500 – I didn’t know how I was going to live or where I was going to stay. I get there, ask where AAA is, I go there, still with my bag- which was small enough just in case things didn’t work out and I had to go back home  – I get there, with my mom’s blessing because she had told me just find your way there and make it happen – I get to the receptionist and I ask her if they’re still accepting people and she tells me no and that they’d been turning down people every day who were coming in and taking chances. I ask to speak to someone and she calls the Registrar and I say ‘I sent my application last year and I never got a response – a rejection or acceptance. I’m not sure what happened’ which of course was a lie (laughs) but I had to find a way to get in and it worked. She was a bit taken aback so she gives me this thick book which you had to fill in when applying and I was familiar with it because I had helped my friend with his application. You probably needed like 2 weeks to fill this form in, she gives it to me and says ‘Come back Monday – 12pm is your deadline’ and I was just like ‘Oh My God, how am I going to do this.’ I literally slept for like 3hours that whole weekend and the rest of the time I was just writing and drawing and filling in everything. I get there Monday around 5 to 12 with my form and the lady is there and she’s having lunch and she gets my forms and she’s like ‘Come back in 5 minutes’ and I’m just thinking ‘There is no way she can go through all that in 5 minutes – she’s already decided she isn’t going to give me a chance’. I go back in 5 minutes and she hasn’t read it yet so she gives me another 5 minutes. I go back then and she’s going through my form now and she tells me to come back in 10minutes, then she says another 10 and another 10 after that…

Well, that was a good sign…

I didn’t even know that was a good sign then because I was just a whole bundle of nerves. Eventually I go back and she’s sitting with one of the Advertising lecturers now and she says ‘This is really really good. I must say I’m surprised. I didn’t expect this’. Then she asked how I was going to pay if I got in because I had indicated in the form that my mom wasn’t working. I knew my mom couldn’t afford it and I also knew they didn’t offer Bursaries so I’m like ‘Well, my mother has a property that she’s going to sell…’

Wow Khaya. Lie number 2 already …

(laughs) Well I had to sell myself and I was accepted. So what remained of the R500 I paid rent and I got some food and then got a job as a waiter. Things were going well for my first year but at the end of my second year I had to drop out. I will never forget this. I used to share my place with these guys and they had to leave and I wasn’t able to contribute to the rent on my own so the ‘digs’ had to be disbanded and I was just like’ What am I going to do now’. Because we were all ‘leaving’ the owner decided to renovate the flat and I didn’t have anywhere to go. So while it was being renovated, I took my suitcase and my clothes and left them at this church I used to go to – and every night I would go back to the flat because they didn’t lock up and I knew they wouldn’t come back at night, I’d clear all the rubble from the renovations and I’d sleep on the floor. I’d always sleep with all my clothes on in case someone came in and I had to run. I did this for over 2 weeks but one morning the guys came in early or I slept in too long, I don’t know – and I heard them open the door, I grabbed my bag and I ran out through the back door and obviously I never went back. And it was back to wondering ‘What am I gonna do now?’ I think part of it was also because I was just too proud to ask for help and tell people I knew that I was in this situation’. So my next best option was to sleep at AAA in my classroom. Advertising students work very hard and there’s always deadlines all the time so people would be studying up till 2 or 3 in the morning  and it was torture because I was just like ‘Oh my God, Can’t you leave already’…

Yeah, like ‘This is my bedroom here’…..

(Laughs) Yes. When they eventually left I’d sleep on the desks and this went on for a while until one day- I used to do this youth thing on Fridays at church’ and my pastor used to drop me off afterwards –  so one day he’s like ‘Why am I always dropping you off at school at this time of the night. What’s going on?’ – I tried feeding him some lies about deadlines and that but he didn’t buy any of it. And eventually I just broke down and I told him everything and he put me onto a YMCA type thing. But yeah, I had to drop out of school then because of all these financial issues. I was now working as a waiter and not going to school and every day I kept thinking’ I am not going to spend my whole life as a waiter’ so I decided I needed to make a statement if I was serious about getting into Advertising. I wrote a very funny -if I do say so myself (laughs) – CV which I then sent to this agency which was the most creative and most sought after agency in Cape Town at the time. I wrote all the standard personal details info and then I wrote in bullet point form – I can use phones, faxes and computers without breaking them; some of my best friends are white; I am NOT a member of COSATU …(laughs) In another section on ‘Position applied for’ I wrote Copywriter and on ‘Experience or Skills in this field’ I wrote ‘I used to write slogans on township walls “Free Mandela” and “One man one vote” and these were both very successful campaigns as you may already know’ When they gave me a call they were still laughing and they called me in for an interview and I got the job. That in a nutshell is how I got into advertising (laughs)

Looking back now, you’ve represented all these big brands and have had huge success in the advertising industry. Did you ever dream, back then, when you were sleeping on desks and on the floor, that you would get to this place?

NO. You know I always admire people that say when they were really down and out, they were so certain, even then, that they would get to wherever they’d set out to get to.  For me it was not a matter of ‘This is a path I’ve set and I’ll achieve it no matter what’. It was a matter of ‘This situation will not defeat me’ I think that was it. It was a case of ‘I can overcome this’ and I think I was looking at it in that way. Even when I got the job it was still very difficult. It didn’t suddenly become a bed of roses. Again, very few black people in the industry and I was young so it was like I’m a junior and I’m black and I’m in Cape Town (laughs) It was tough and I can’t honestly say I knew things would pen out the way they did but what I did know was that things would get better and I think for me that’s what always drove me. As outrageous as I know I am at times, I’m a deeply spiritual person and there were these 2 verses in the Bible that I would always fall back on. The one was about Job and how he lost everything, and he was down and out and he’d lost all his wealth and then his servant comes to him and says ‘You’ve lost everything and now your children are also dead’ ’and Job tears away his garments and cries ‘Naked I came, Naked I shall depart- May the name of the Lord be praised!’ and for me it was like, if he can say that in that situation, who am I to do anything but. My situation wasn’t nearly as bad. I hadn’t lost any loved ones or anything so I knew things were going to get better. The other one was from the book of James, and I know it by heart, because I had to recite it a lot and tell myself ‘Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds because the testing of your faith develops perseverance, perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete and lack nothing’ And so for me it was like ok, I have to persevere so I can acquire the faith I need to be mature and complete and to lack in nothing. And there is another verse after that one that says ‘for God gives to all freely and without finding fault’ and for me those were the kinds of things that kept me going and motivated in that time.

How did the writing come back into the picture after you started off on the advertising route?

You know, I like doing things. I like doing things that I think I can do and I don’t think twice about doing them. It’s just a matter of ‘I think I can do this, let me try it out’ and then I do it. What you may not know about me which might show you the type of curiosity I have is I went to a stand- up comedy show once and it was my first time I had been to one and I see these guys on stage and I’m like ‘I can do that’ (laughs) I was sure I could do it. So I went to the Cape Comedy Collective, I think that’s what it was called, and I told them I wanted to be a comedian so they showed me the ropes. I said from the beginning that I wanted to be different so my kind of comedy was very different. I didn’t want to be like every other comic who was talking about ‘being black’ so I did something totally different. For a time I was doing pretty okay as a comedian whilst working in advertising at the same time and I was doing it simply because I wanted to do it. And I actually appeared on- I’m going to give away my age here (laughs)- but yeah, I appeared on Phat Joe and some reputable comedy showcases- I got bored and tired of it after a while though and tried other things. How the writing happened was through some of my stuff that I was putting up on YouTube. The Thought Leader for Mail & Guardian contacted me and said they’d seen the stuff I was saying on YouTube and would I be interested in writing for them. I was like ‘sure I can do it’ and I started writing even though it scared me to hell. It’s my constant need to be more than just one dimensional that pushes me. I don’t want to be one dimensional and I’m not. I’m not trying to be all these things – I just cannot ‘not’ be. I want to be everything I think I’m designed to be.

Let’s visit the twitter streets for a bit. You have quite a strong presence there and you have a lot to say about a lot of things. We could throw you any topic under the sun and I’m sure you’d have something to say about it. Where does this come from?

(Laughs) You know it’s so funny because when I look back I always ask myself  ‘Have I always been like this?’ and then I remember that I’d debate my uncles who were much older than me when I was still in school about political issues; I’d  read the papers and discuss whatever was in them. I used to watch and listen to freaking CODESA negotiations when I was young. I would follow the political process intensely and read about anything and everything I could read about. I liked being challenged and I liked challenging other people. I remember sometime in school we all had to have an oral, and the theme for the oral was ‘A Controversial Subject’ and this was about 2 months after OJ Simpson had been acquitted and this is in a class with 2 black kids and the rest of the kids are white, and I chose him as my subject and I remember starting off by saying ‘White people need to get over this and they need to understand that the justice system says ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and according to that system OJ is an innocent man based on A,B and C…

Talk about controversy – that was it right there…

And then what happened is I promise I never got to finish my presentation. Everyone just started grilling me and throwing me a thousand questions– my teacher even. And they were like but he used to beat her up and I was like ‘Yes, but that doesn’t mean he killed her.  It was horrible for him to do that but that didn’t make him a murderer either’. I was standing in front of my class for over 30minutes getting all these questions thrown at me and I only got a break when the period ended. And I remember another time I made a speech about how white people should thank Mandela for freeing us because they now didn’t have to be embarrassed when they travelled overseas to say they were form South Africa (laughs). So yeah, I’ve always pushed buttons. For me; more than anything I think it’s a matter of challenging what I know. The opinions that I have on twitter are an extension of that and of what I’ve always been. I also want people to be interested in some of the things that I’m interested in so I always find a way to do that just so people can engage more and understand more and be a little more curious. That’s what I try to do. And sometimes I just say things because it’s fun and we all need to laugh a little.

Ok let’s talk about your dating life for a bit

(Laughs)

Seeing as we’re all nice and relaxed and everything…

(Keeps laughing) I’m listening….

Let’s get this out of the way 1st – Are you seeing anyone?

Yes I am…

A lot of women find you intriguing because you seem like a very very smart guy…

(Laughs)It’s all an act…

Well, it’s working because we’re buying it. Seriously though; do you think you being so smart and well informed gives you an edge over other guys?

I don’t think the fact that I’m well informed does that. I think it’s my personality that does. Honestly. A lot of people for some reason always assume that when they meet me I’ll be this very serious guy and yet 90% of the time I’m not serious at all. I think that comes off as a plus for some people that I’m not as serious and as intense as they expected. I don’t like people who are always serious and I cannot be around people who are always serious. Life is serious enough as it is without our help (laughs). Does that give me an edge over other guys? I don’t know. I think people – women – just like guys who are themselves and I am myself all the time. And I think that’s attractive to people and that’s what might make me attractive to women even though I’m not necessarily that attractive (Laughs)

No comment Khaya.

(Laughs)

What do you think you bring into a relationship? What kind of boyfriend are you?

Wow. I think I’m a good boyfriend. Am I as good as I possibly could be? –No. I don’t think anyone can ever really be – it’s quite difficult. You need to fully consider the dynamics of the other person – what they want and expect versus what you want and expect. I know I can be a bit headstrong and stubborn which might make me a not so great boyfriend but I really try to compromise and to negotiate. I negotiate a lot…

Negotiate…?

Yeah. Let me explain what I mean. Say you tell me ‘Well, I saw you talking to your ex’ or something like that, I will be like ‘Let’s not respond in an emotional way here. Rather let’s look at the context. What exactly did you see me do? Was this something out of the ordinary? How can we work together and move past this?’ I’d rather do this instead of reacting as emotionally as the other person because that always ruins relationships. I always try to avoid tackling something from an emotional place or being aggressive because then both of you become defensive and you end up saying things you really shouldn’t. I remember I used to have a girlfriend – that none of you know by the way (laughs)…

Well thank you for clarifying that because yes, our minds might have jumped to conclusions…

(Laughs)Yeah, Exactly- I just wanted to make sure. Anyway, I’m not a big believer in spending money to prove how much I’m into a relationship. I think spending money is a very easy way of ‘being there’ when in actual fact you could be absent. For me, I’d rather be present and show that I’m present and let the person feel that I’m present  rather than me trying to say ‘hey, let’s go to Cape Town or let’s buy these shoes… If we buy the shoes we buy the shoes but never as a substitute for my time. I think materialism is a very bad way of creating a relationship and it worries me that a lot of people seem to think that’s the way to show affection or that you love someone. I cannot do that and if someone cannot accept that then I cannot and I will not be with them. I’d rather give of myself truly and have everything else as a bonus as opposed to ‘If I get you this then its evidence of my love’ when we all know it isn’t.

Let’s talk about your current book project. What was the whole concept behind the ‘Youngsters’ series and what can we expect from your book ‘In My Arrogant Opinion’?

The guys behind this, when they were talking, they said initially they had a shortlist of about 100 people they could possibly work with and they kept narrowing it down until they got to the 5 of us.  The whole idea is to get people who don’t normally read books to read. Out of 50million people in this country only 900 000 buy books and that’s the gap they were trying to close. There are so many people who cannot read and we want to reach those. For the series, we could write about anything we wanted and what I decided was to tackle quite a few subjects. There are some very serious issues I tackle but there are also some very light hearted issues that I tackle. I talk about where I come from, I write about white women and fake smiles (laughs), It’s such a stupid random chapter but I enjoyed writing about it, I also write about young black men and how we should not be like our fathers who abandoned and haven’t looked after their children and that we should be the generation that changes that behavior. I talk about the relationship between men, women and money and I call that the love triangle. I talk about the fact that our languages are dying and how English is kind of taking over everything. I talk about ‘towning’ … (laughs)

But of course- what would a Khaya book be without that…?

I discuss quite a few issues and it’s half serious and half not so serious. And then at the back I quote myself (laughs). It’s called the ‘quotable black’…

Is this serious quotes or ‘towning’ quotes…?

There are 3 sections – it’s the good black, the angry black and the quotable black (laughs)

Where to from here for Khaya? What can we expect from you in the near future?

There’s a great thing that Woody Allen said – ‘If you want God to laugh, tell him your plans’ (laughs) so to tell you the truth, where to from now is to wherever the good Lord decides to take me. I am more than willing to go wherever. I’m not afraid of trying things that scare me. Like the job I currently have with Coca Cola, looking back to where I used to work; it’s a very different environment. Advertising is very chilled and laid back, it’s a ‘let’s party; everyone’s cool’ type of setting then going to Coca Cola which was an extremely corporate type of environment. It was terrifying but I was just like ‘you know, this is going to challenge me- I’ll learn new things so let me go for it!’ and for me that’s what it is. You don’t grow if you don’t try things that scare you and if you’re always in your ‘safe’ area you are never going to grow and you are going to always hate those people that put themselves out there. I will always put myself out there and I will take the criticism that comes with that and the things that people have to say because if you don’t want to have an impact then don’t do anything. If you’re going to try and make something happen know what’s coming your way and don’t be afraid of it. There is a great Latin proverb that I love which says ‘Live your own life for you will die your own death’ and I think for me that’s really what counts. I know people are going to criticize and call me a ‘liker’ of things but actually being a liker of things really takes you far. You’ve got to like things to strive for them. So someone might say ‘Oh good heavens, Khaya has written a book now – he’s such a ‘liker’ of things that one’ but for me it’s because I really wanted to write a book and if you’re going to find fault in that then so be it.

One final thing – your arrogant opinion on the following:

Julius Malema

I think Julius speaks the truth when it’s convenient for him. When he was with Jacob Zuma he was pro-Jacob all the way and he was going on about how Jacob is cool and now that he’s out he’s got some very harsh things to say about him. I think some of the things he’s saying do need to be said – he worries me to some degree but at the same time I’m like ‘Good for him’-  one thing for sure that I keep saying is there is definitely no show better than the Julius Malema show (laughs)

Racism in South Africa

Racism is very complex because it’s more subtle now than it was during Apartheid and that’s what makes it complicated. Sometimes it’s hidden behind ‘seemingly’ good intentions and sometimes I think people don’t even know they’re being racist because it’s such an integral part of who they are. Racism didn’t suddenly die in 1994 but then people had to suddenly ‘change’ their behavior and attitude post ’94. And everyone keeps joking about it – the fact that you don’t meet a single white person today who voted for the National Party – so it’s like ‘did they all die in ’94? What happened to them?’ I think we still have a long way to go when it comes to racism but I also think that black people tend to use the race card very freely even when there isn’t any racism. Instead of using the logical thinking process to try and win an argument or a debate it’s very lazy thinking to always throw in the race card. And I think when you really think things through to see if you were really at fault without letting your emotions get in the way, you might find that you were. Even if there is racism, look at the other aspects that might be bigger than that.  Don’t always use racism as the only excuse. If you don’t get that promotion, is it really ‘just because’ you’re black?  Ask yourself ‘Am I really performing’ ‘Did I really deserve to get it’? Be honest with yourself. Honesty is what we need. White people need to be honest with themselves and black people also need to be honest with themselves.

Jacob Zuma for a second term of presidency?

That’s a very good question comrade… (laughs)

Thank you Comrade…

What exactly do you want me to answer?

What is your ‘ARROGANT OPINION’ Comrade?

I think the ANC needs to ask itself a very honest question ‘Who is most capable to lead us into the future?’ I think Mandela did a very good thing – everyone loved him when he stepped down and I’m sure if he had run for a second term he probably would have gotten like 70 plus percent of the votes because even the white folk loved him but he knew there was someone else who could lead the country better than he could and I think for me that’s what it’s about – being very honest with yourself and stepping outside of your ego. I think Jacob Zuma and the ANC need to be extremely honest with themselves and not be blinded by a hunger for power. Do I think they’re people who’re better capable of running the country than Jacob? – I think so.  Do I think he could run the ANC better than he is currently doing? I think so. Do I think that he could run the country better? I think so. What worries me is if you say things like this about someone, they automatically assume that it’s simply because you don’t like who they are or what they stand for and you have something against them. And that’s not the case. It’s just that we’ve got to look at what the country needs as opposed to what me as an individual might need.

Twitter and its influence or lack thereof…

I think some people take it far too seriously. A lot of people actually.  I had a whole thing the other day where I wrote about the ‘twitter theses’ and I wrote about the fact that people tend to get an overinflated view of themselves because of twitter. You get a couple thousand followers and suddenly you think you’re big around the world and you have the license to say whatever it is you want to say regardless of what the rest of the world will think. And there’s also that whole thing of people being relatively anonymous and so because of that you can be quite harsh to people and tweet them things you would never be able to say to them in person. Another thing I always say is ‘Don’t confuse your power on twitter with your power in real life’. There are over 50 million people in South Africa and only a very small fraction of that is on twitter and suddenly because you’re known by a couple thousand people you think you are powerful and you’re ‘Mr Hot Shot’ but when you step outside your door no one knows who the hell you are. I think people need to have a realistic view of who they are and I think a lot of people don’t. And I think sometimes people elevate certain individuals on twitter more than they should be elevated and I will include myself on that list (laughs).

As the elevated or the elevator?

The elevated. There’s this term ‘tweleb’ that I hate. It’s like; let’s go back to what a celebrity is for a second. It’s definitely not a few thousand followers on twitter – that doesn’t qualify you to be a celebrity.

Finally, anything at all you want to share on ‘towning’? Any words, tips, new developments- anything….

(Laughs) Leave the towning to the towners – that’s all I’ve got to say!

Love in a time of friends with benefits

October 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

First appeared on my News24 column on 5 April 2011

I’m beginning to sound like Felicia Mabuza Suttle who when she still had a show on TV would say during every episode, “When I was in the States.” I find myself saying, “When I was in the States,” and I’m still in the States. Worse, I’ve only been here for two weeks. Barely. And I’m leaving in a day.

Anyway. I read a very interesting story on the front page of USA today, “Is Dating Dead? Less commitment and more ‘hookups’ but also more virgins: The new face of sex and relationships among young adults.” I know. Long subtitle. Is it still a subtitle if it’s longer than a tweet?

The story says that 72% of young adults “hook up”. What is hooking up? 35% say it’s kissing and touching, 12% say it’s (parental guidance is advised for the next line. Oh, sorry, this is not TV) hand-to-genital stimulation, 12% say it’s oral sex and a whopping 40% say it’s intercourse, or sex if you wish.

What the study concluded is that dating has taken a back seat and casual sex or, “friends with benefits” has taken the driving seat. The study states that because there are fewer men than women, young women are competing with each other for access to men, and often, that leads to sex sooner, says Regnerus; author of How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think about Marrying.

Now you could say this is an American study and doesn’t reflect on South Africa. Truth is I know many people who are living like the study that I just quoted. The question is why? Of course there are seemingly logical reasons like working late. No time for relationships. Focusing on building careers. But there may be deeper reasons than that. Those are just the reasons behind the underlying problem. Yes Mr and Miss Column Commentator, no one died and made me a psychologist. But I will make my hypothesis nonetheless.

There is a pain that is caused by a perpetual search for intimacy. Although we are not lonely, we feel alone. When we are not alone and we see a happy couple, we long for what they have but still want to be alone because it’s easier. Even though it’s easier, we are still miserable. It is an interesting cycle. Yes. There are those of us who are happy being single, then there are those of us who are unhappy being single but do not want to be in relationships.

I wrote something that seemed to resonate with a lot of people on Twitter on Sunday. A little emo. Some may say it was a little more than emo. I have decided to expound on these a little bit more.

There is a profound loneliness within our generation. It is not the I want to kill myself because no one likes me kind of loneliness, nor the I’m a loser with no friends kind either. It’s the one that lays hidden behind the happiness. The emptiness that we try to fill by going to clubs in order to meet girls and guys so as to fill that void. Of course this is not to say that is what people will go there to do, as undoubtedly some of the comments will say.

We tell ourselves that before we meet the person of our dreams we have to be the person of our dreams first. Many of us are fully aware of our idiosyncrasies, and cannot begin to fathom anyone wanting anything to do with them. Often times we know that we will never be that person of our dreams. That person is as elusive as Cope victory in the upcoming local government elections.

Funny enough, we know we could be captains of industry, achieve all other goals, but the goal of achieving the ultimate self is most elusive, and therefore most fail to try to be that person.

A lot of the time, when a person falls for us, it’s probably because they think more highly of us than they ought to. But these are the fundamentals of a relationship according to another study. Relationships where the each person in the relationship puts the other on a pedestal, those last and are happier.

Maybe we don’t let others in because we’re afraid they may realise that we are even more imperfect than they think. So we push them away because a twisted logic tells us that we need to protect them from ourselves. Then we become emotionally distant because we don’t want the other person to want to come in. The sad part in all of this is that we still want them to want us. But we chose the unsatisfying “hook-up” zone.

Love is when you choose to let someone into your own little imperfect world and them letting you in theirs.

But hey, let’s hook up! I kid. I kid.

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