The Age of State- Sponsored Othering – Xenophobia

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There is a difference between a nation that upholds the ideals of cultural and ethnic pluralism (diversity) vs. assimilation (integration). Sometimes, nations do not know which of the two they truly uphold and value – not just in principle but in practice too.

A nation that upholds the ideals of cultural and ethnic pluralism is one which demonstrates tolerance and acceptance of cultural difference. It views these differences as intrinsically valuable and not only valuable in so far as these differences can be exploited for the advancement of that nation. People are not seen as a means to an end – but are appreciated for their differences and are not ‘othered’ on the basis of those differences.

I believe that both South Africa and the United States of America fall into this category, purely based on the ideals to which they “claim” to uphold and value. This is upheld in our Constitutions, in our laws and foundations upon which we have built our new order. However, in practice, the complete opposite is true – at least, in recent years.

On the other hand, a nation that upholds the ideals of assimilation is one which values people of other cultures in so far as they are able to be assimilated into the dominant culture, beliefs, practices etc. This perspective does not value cultural or ethnic differences intrinsically but values them on the basis of their adaptability to the norm and in reference to how far they have come in terms of “integrating” into the new society.

This is the ideal which is gaining popularity in both the USA and in South Africa recently. The anti-immigration policies and prejudiced attitudes towards (particularly poor) immigrants demonstrate this absence of value for pluralism where it is seen to not be beneficial or profitable for the dominant group. The value of diversity is not regarded as something valuable in itself but must also have instrumental value. Hence arguments against immigrants are closely tied to the materialist notion around the economic burden of taking in more people onto the system (not society, the system).

In South Africa, these attitudes of upholding assimilation are not exclusively reserved for immigrants, but can be seen within the different cultures within South Africa. Most provinces and residential areas are still divided across racial, socio-economic and cultural lines. Acceptance into those communities is often withheld unless one learns the dominant language, or partakes in the practices and beliefs of that community otherwise a degree of intolerance and discrimination, even violence, ensues as seen with the xenophobic attacks.

Some of the most prominent contributing factors to xenophobia include a perceived threat to the cohesion and safety of a shared identity such as nationality or ethnicity, competition for scarce resources such as low wage jobs, housing or in the tragically misogynistic paradigm – women. One of the often ignored causes for xenophobia is also psychologically repressed emotions and frustrations which are projected onto immigrants which include inferiority complexes, desperation, isolatedness, and neglect. It may much easier for people to punish others for sharing these experiences and expecting sympathy and even assistance from those citizens who are already crippled by these similar issues, therefore, treating immigrants with hostility because of this is one of the ways in which people can misplace the anger and frustrations stemming from those issues onto the person who mirrors it to them.

 

Education: South Africa Failing Her Youth

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Popular cartoonist, Zapiro's depiction of Angie Motshekga, South African Minister of Basic Education.

Popular cartoonist, Zapiro’s depiction of Angie Motshekga, South African Minister of Basic Education.

In 2014, 20 years after our first democratic election...we still have children who have nothing but this sorry excuse for an education.

In 2014, 20 years after our first democratic election…we still have children who have nothing but this sorry excuse for an education.

Without a quality education, we trap these young, innocent lives into this fate

Without a quality education, we trap these young, innocent lives into this fate

Education. While I couldn’t be more amped that I’ve finally reached the end of my high school career, the long school hours, rules and restrictions …it cannot be said that I have hated school. In fact, education is something which I hold dearly in my heart, particularly as a young African.

Too many gaping holes have been made in our development as a continent, leaving us unequipped for the journey to technological, scientific and economic advancement which the rest of the world has long embarked on.
Recently, I read an article about a town called Kuruman, whereby the local people, in the frustration of poor service delivery and the pitiable state of their roads led to the “No Roads, No School” protest. “The pupils were stopped from attending school when they returned from the winter holidays by angry community members demanding tarred roads.”

As it stands, “The Northern Cape “no road, no school” protest will cost about 16 000 pupils a year of learning after a decision was taken that they will repeat their classes in 2015,” notes Poloko Tau of City Press. As a matriculant, myself, I cannot imagine the implications of these protests on learners who are meant to be preparing for their final examinations- most of which are needed by universities for official acceptance.

It puzzles me even more, that the Department of Education could allow this great misfortune to be dealt to innocent learners. But then again, the South African Department of Education has often failed to be vigilant in upholding the standard of excellence when it came to matriculants or any grades, for that matter.
I speak with such open disdain because these are futures they are messing with and it could have been my future. This is not the first time we see the value of education being overlooked in our country, and whoever disagrees can kindly go back to review the 30% which is required for a pass in this country (note Zapiro’s cartoon above).

This is what the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, had to say in his justification for the 30% pass requirement.
“What do we do with those who don’t get 50%?” he told a press briefing on post-school opportunities for learning in Pretoria.”There is no dustbin where a human being goes.”
He said South Africa was becoming a “dangerously elitist” country if it was considering “throwing away half of our young people” who did not achieve a 50% matric pass.

Really? The gaping flaw in this kind thinking should not even need be pointed out by a seventeen year old on her blog in order to highlight its down-right absurdity! Does passing matric with a 30% make one brighter than if they had been failed with the same mark? What doctor would you allow to operate on you if he only knew 30% of what he was doing? Lowering the bar doesn’t make you any better, it does nothing but give an illusion of excellence which, as in this instance, no one else in the world believes. *Note that the weights Motshekga is lifting so effortlessly in the cartoon are simply balloons – see the Eezi-inflate pump lying on the floor?

What this does, this constantly depreciating value of public education, is harvest an unskilled, unemployable and incompetent youth. These young people are then set free into the competitive professional world, where essentially they are “tossed into dustbins” in any case, seeing that universities don’t give 30-40% so much as a glance. They are left to sit at home- jobless, resort to petty crimes, to take up posts on pavements holding up sympathy-boards at the ages of 30 to 68.

So what are the possible solutions here?

1) The pass rate needs to be on par with the rest of the international community’s 50%. If you make it, great. If you don’t, stay another year, repeat the work until you get better grades. And if it so happens that too many of our learners are failing to meet this standard, Mr and Ms Minister, do your jobs and find out what the problem is. Improve the quality of education, train teachers better, renovate dilapidated schools, introduce milestones and incentives, have inspectors who actually ensure there is progress in schools, get rid of lazy educators who are not doing their jobs… Come on! I’m seventeen, this is not my job.

2) When there are strikes and protests of whatever nature, leave children out of it. Stay away from work if you must but no child’s education should ever be jeopardised by politics or anything else, for that matter.

3) If the same problem continually marginalises innocent people, particularly children, under leadership of one of your ministers, Mr President, especially five years after they were elected into office…it doesn’t matter how far back you two go, if they can’t take the heat, they ought to be chucked out of the kitchen.

How Tennyson and I would tackle unemployment

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"The loneliest moment in someone's life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly," Scott Fitzgerald "unless you carpe diem" Gugu the Seer

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly,” Scott Fitzgerald “unless they carpe diem” Gugu the Seer

Forget Marie-Antoinette declaring that the peasants should “eat cake” in a time of hunger and extreme poverty.

I think if I were given the task to tackle South Africa’s astounding 25% unemployment rate…I would begin by rounding up the masses of the eager and the not-so-eager job-seekers and give them a good dose of my favourite poem in this entire universe: Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson

This poem says so much. While we’re at it let’s do some collaborative promotion here: #NikeJustDoIt #DeadPoetsSociety #RamboSoundtrack #BruceLeeQuotes #GreatGatsbyGreenLight #DrSeuss’Oh_the_places_you’ll_go

All of this in one poem.

Ulysses

Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1809 – 1892

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known–cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all,–
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads–you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.