Tracking for life

5 January 2014

Looking back on this blog (originally maintained on my home server – leftside – a server that sadly died in a hard disk failure years ago) I see I’ve got almost a decade of posts up here. Its sobering looking back on what I wrote about. I’m inspired to post again today because of two things: firstly, since late last year I’ve been feeling increasingly frustrated about my “place in the universe”, about the way my time is spent, going to work, looking after kids, keeping a house together. Secondly, a little thing Rebecca wrote this morning about complicity. As Greg Knill said years ago (when I was still in Earthlife Africa, the second of my many political homes), we live in enemy territory. Beyond that, however, I’m horribly complicity in the system of domination (capitalist, imperalialist, white supremacist, heterosexist patriarchy). I go to work and do my job with little reflection on its utility, meanwhile my kids go to a school (a moderately good formely white school down the road from our house) and come home to be tended by a domestic worker. The “politics” of my life are tracked – some things are relatively easy: career advancementareas , getting the job done. Some things are incredibly hard: living in solidarity with other people around me, helping to build organisations that challenge the system.

The tracking I’m thinking about today is not just that tracking, however, its the tracking that seems to grasp and direct kids from birth in South Africa. In particular, the tracking of kids into different school “streams”. Over at Andries du Toit’s blog you can see a Lorentz curve showing South Africa’s growing inequality. This is reflected everywhere, from salaries to healthcare options to, of course, schooling. In South Africa schools are funded in part by the state, but to a much greater extent by parents’ school fee contributions. So the particular pot of wealth that a school has access to is “ringfenced” to serve that school, and there is a relatively small degree of cross-subsidisation between wealthy and poor in the education sector. The schools are allowed to set their own “catchment area”, and they then do that to target the wealthiest group of parents they can find – so e.g. the school where my kids go defines its area as “St James, Muizenberg, Lakeside and Marina da Gama”, all historically white “Group Areas”. Notably absent from that list is Vrygrond (aka Capricorn), where my domestic worker and a bunch of my friends stay. Over the years I’ve tried to get my friends (and my domestic worker’s) kids into the Muizenberg school, only to be turned down at every turn. Instead, even when school fees can be afforded (each state school gets to set its own fees), the options available to a township kid are schools that have more kids per teacher and fewer facilities than the schools a suburban kid can access.

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That’s why

20 August 2009

originally from:

My mother she got so sick
She went to the clinic
The queue –
It was a mile long
That’s why we need NHI

My father hit his head
He was nearly dead
They said you must pay
If you want help today

That’s why we need the NHI
That’s why we need the NHI

My sister she is a nurse
She loved her job at first
But nurses are so few
It makes her job hard to do

My son he couldn’t breathe
The hospital
Lacked the drugs he needs

That’s why we need the NHI
That’s why we need the NHI

Update on Ogoniland

8 June 2007

Pastor Barry Barinaadaa Wuganaale is the project coordinator of Ogoni Solidarity Forum, an organization floated through Ogoni exiles in Africa that are fighting to carry on the mantle and original vision of the late Ken Saro Wiwa..

Apart from having background in marketing, Barry Wuganaale is a trained pastor with specialization in discipleship. From 1999, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees stopped considering Ogonis as persecuted activists in the tiny country that depends largely on Nigeria for its economic leverage; Pastor Barry became instrumental to the formation of campaign front that had been fighting to put pressure on the UNHCR.

His background as a pastor helped in the coordination of an exiled community of Ogonis in Ouidah, the ancient capital of the country. He formed a non-denominational refugee prayer fellowship that still runs in the makeshift refugee camp in Benin Republic and the fellowship had created positive impact upon the exiled Ogoni community. He has been arrested and tried for exposing the corruption at UNHCR severally; following threats to his life, the Ogoni community in Ouidah mandated him to relocate to South Africa, where he is currently cultivating an international campaign platform for the refugees in Benin and the Ogoni struggle broadly.

Pastor Barry has spoken on the Ogoni issue at forums in and out of South Africa. As the Project Coordinator of the Ogoni Solidarity Forum, he works fulltime on voluntary basis and says he is not worried about getting another job because Ogoni struggle is life long vocation. As part of his devotion to the cause of liberation for the Ogoniland he also decided to donate all his written works to the cause. On the 28th of July, three of his books would be launched in Cape Town.

Despite Pastor Barry’s busy schedule (he will participate in the forcoming International Book Fair in Cape Town and launch his books in July), Peter van Heusden of Cape Town Indymedia recently caught up with him to speak about the Ogoni struggle, against the background of the Mathew Kukah’s recent visit to Cape Town and General Olusegun Obasanjo handing over of the presidency in Nigeria (on the 29th May).

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Or rather, Rosa Luxemburg morning. After dropping off Edie in Vrygrond, I made my way to Community House, where I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd gathered for the Rosa Luxemburg seminar. I would estimate that it was at least 60% township people, many of whom I know from different community based struggles – in other words, it wasn’t the total academic wankfest that I feared. After milling about for some time, we were broken into groups of about 20 people. I was paired with Nina Benjamin (who now works at LRS) as the “respondent” to my input. In any event, we started with input from everyone about who they were and what they had learned over the past two days – a lot of people’s comments centered on the persistent NGO vs. social movement vs. political party debate, what was on a rather different level from where I pitched my input. Anyway, I forged ahead regardless… I think I was more successful at portraying how capitalism entraps and destroys us then I was at speaking on how resistance can get linked up, because a lot of the inputs suggested I had not been “systematic” enough on that point. Nina’s response was largely supportive, and probably clarified what was (unfortunately, as usual) a bit of a long winded input from my side.

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So I got invited to speak on a panel at the Rosa Luxemburg lecture series organised by Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, ILRIG and AIDC. The topic is attitudes towards the state, the ANC and the “left project”. So here are some notes.

My starting point is that we have to understand capital as enclosure. Capitalism isn’t just about some people being rich and others poor – although that is one aspect of capitalism, capitalism is most clearly characterised as the imposition of the social relation of capital. Capital, as a social relation, organises the process of accumulation so as continually exploit the majority of humanity and the planet through the alienation of the product of their labour from those who labour. That “product of labour” can be a shoe, a car, but also it can be a social relation, such as the harmony within a family, or the labour which goes into reproducing life so that we can get up in the morning, go to work, raise the next generation of workers, etc. Anyway, capital doesn’t get exploitation and alienation “for free”, as some eternal human condition, but it achieves these things by continually enclosing people within its grasp, by cutting off all possibilities of life that don’t refer back to capital.

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Just a quick note: I came across this blog – Team Colors. The call themselves a “collective engaged in ‘militant research’ to provide ‘strategic analysis for the intervention in everyday life'”, and the content isn’t that interesting in and of itself – it seems to be mostly adverts for events in New York. The thing that’s interesting about it is what’s in the left sidebar – a collection of links to almost anyone who is everyone in the ‘autonomist’ oriented ‘militant research’, worldwide. A few notable exceptions are kolinko and RED. And if you’re going to link to ‘A Grammar of the Multitude’, why not link to the online text? Anyway, its good to have a site that plays a similar role to that which the John Gray and the libcom library play for other spaces.

Sitemaps and things

5 August 2006

So I’ve now installed this Google sitemap generator plugin. Yet one more piece of technology on my already-overloaded server, ‘leftside’. I’ve probably got more stuff on there than you find on many corporate servers – layers of spam filters, mysql databases, stats generation of all kinds – like this web stats page which shows that, beside myself, the only visitor to my web pages is the googlebot. So why am I even writing this, hey?


17 June 2006

I just finished watching Cry Freedom (1987) and despite it being after midnight, I can’t sleep. In part because of the intensity of that movie… and it is a seriously good movie, even despite the fact that there’s too much Donald Woods and not enough Steve Biko. I don’t know of any other films that cover Steve Biko’s life and work at all, so I guess we’ll have to settle with this one, eh?

I guess the other reason I’m feeling edgy is that its 30 years since 16 June 1976. Together with some young guys from Vrygrond and one of the women from Overcome (the land occupation next to Vrygrond) I helped organise a youth day thing. One part of my contribution was to make this poster – the original inspiration was a kind of record of deaths – from the thousands at Tlatelolco in 1521 and 1968 to the students of ’76 to Marcel King (Durban) and Teboho Mkhonza (Harrismith) in 2004 and Javier Santiago and Alexis Benhumea in Atenco just a month ago. The thing about this is that the more I dug, the more blood I seemed to find beneath the ‘soil’ of history. Again and again – from the peasant revolts of 14th century Europe to the witch trials to the bloody suppression of the Bhambada Rebellion 100 years ago, to the Dirty War in Argetina in the 70s… etc etc – those in power have drowned rebellion in blood.

And a sense of this terrible history fills me with fear because I know I can hardly say I have nothing to lose. It is possible for life to become a living hell.

And now… we have Zille in charge in Cape Town. I fear this DA administration might bring back the evictions, water cutoffs and other attacks that we saw in large numbers between 2000 and 2002 in Cape Town. In those years neoliberalism was visited on the poor of Cape Town in a million small scale tragedies – for that what these policies are, a million cuts that tear apart human life, reduce it to merely surviving, suck all joy out of it. We learnt a lot in those days – how to reconnect a water supply, how we to build up community organisations – and I’m hoping Zille and her crew won’t be stupid enough to re-start the war… but at the same time, I’m aware that they’ve learned – and one of the things they’ve learned is to repress in small doses. A cutoff here, a threat there. That way fear becomes part of everyday life, and its a diffuse fear, the kind that seldom brings people together precisely because of its randomness.

You see, all that ‘They’ – that is those on the side of power, on the side of oppression, the masters of exploitation – all they need to do is to force us back within ourselves, to ‘privatise’ our problems so that we twist ourselves into contortions to look for solutions. In other words, the arrow strikes inward, we look to change ourselves to ‘fit in’ with the rule of capital rather than looking to each other and finding better ways of living our lives.

What I fear is how well capitalism works as a form of rule, how often that fear succeeds. Biko said something about this during the Black Consciousness trial – something about how our job, as activists fighting for a better world, is to keep hope alive. Or as Walter Benjamin put it: “courage, humor, cunning and fortitude…. constantly call into question every victory, past and present, of the rulers.”

A new title?

5 May 2006

Ok, so apparently the title of this blog (the pontificating platform bit) is stupid. So what should it be?

In other news, I just discovered that when I archived my copy of “Voices of a Distant Star” to CD, I somehow saved the wrong version – a version with only French subtitles. Now I’m kinda sad because I wanted to give a copy to a friend (well, swap actually, for a copy of “Dollars and White Pipes”, which I keep seeing only half of (long story there)). Anyway, Voices is one of the few anime films I’ve seen that I really loved (ok, I haven’t seen a lot of anime, but some, like “Metropolis”, just seems a bit forced to me). Oh, another good one was “Spirited Away”. Quite chilling, that one.

In case anyone’s wondering about the high link content of this blog posting, I’m writing this with a newly discovered Firefox extension, Performancing (now, how post-modern is that name? hehe…). Performancing opens a blogging window in the bottom half of your browser window, allowing you to easily copy and paste content from browser to blog. You can even drag and drop images. Very intuitive – that is, once I figured out which button to click to launch it. (Its the PFF SB ICONone). So now my browser is a bit of a kitchen sink – I’ve got FoxyTunes to control my music player, ScrapBook to save web pages (helluva useful for research) and more and more and more. 😉

Anyway, enough for now. Been having a fascinated extended conversation with Rebecca (and obliquely, Ahmed) about power and community (or the lack thereof) and how for transformation to happen in our country / society it is vital that women’s struggles over their very private (but ubiquitous) oppression succeed. And how if JZ wins his rape case (which I suspect he will – we’ll see on Monday), he will set this task backwards as every man will imagine themselves a little-JZ, i.e. a version of this grandstanding arrogant prick, albeit it on a smaller scale. Oh, and I was listening to New Model Army (“All of This”) but now its Fairlight Children.

A trivial blog

27 April 2006

I’ve been wasting far too much time recently playing Mount and Blade, a shareware game oriented around medieval combat. Well, combat as well as travelling around the world, trading, a few quests, etc. Its as-yet unfinished and apparently created by a mere two people in Turkey, but my hours wasted are testimony to how playable it is.
One of the main attractions is that the interface works very cleanly. Combat, which involves everything from bows and arrows to lances (on horseback) to swords to crossbows, is a fun combination of simple (essentially gesture based) commands and complex possibilities (especially since most combat takes place out in the open, with lots of room to manuevre).
The game is lacking in storyline, and multi-player (which doesn’t exist) would be helluva fun, but I (and many many other people on the Internet) can’t wait for future developments. Until then I’ll keep playing the beta I’ve got.