Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Identity Politics

Identity Politics is when we represent the specific interests of social groups to which a clump of people identifies. Identity Politics represents something people 'are', rather than something that people believe. It stops discussion by creating an us, and a them. We think in categories. Reality is a lot messier than that. The powerful use of Identity Politics is when a group has been oppressed. When that bit of the identity has been used to hold them down. Forming groups around that, allows that group to rise up. The challenge is that those people are far more complicated than that. The oversimplification that was used to oppress is not the thing that defines them. I look forward to an evolving politics of listening. A gradual dismantling of the borders between us and them. That doesn't make us all the same. It does provide choice. A politics of agreed ground rules that empower us to build complicated, interlinked, interdependent, fuzzy, dynamic, real identities. Identity is just a story. Let's make it a good one.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Continental Stories

Melilla Border

If continents are defined as discrete landmasses, then there are four continents (Afro-Eurasia, Americas, Australia and Antartica). There is no 'real' definition. They are spoken of by convention. Carthage and Rome fought three Punic Wars between 264BC and 146BC. Carthage then became the Capital of the province of Africa Proconsulis as part of the Roman Empire. The Mediterranean is a lot calmer than the English Channel. The Suez Canal is shallow, narrow, and man-made. At various times between 711 and 1492, the southern part of Spain was under the control of those who also controlled Northern Africa as Al-Andulus. Today, Melilla and Cueta are two heavily fortified Port Cities which are officially a part of Europe but on the south side of the pond. Until 1963, Algeria was considered a part of France. In 1957, when the European Economic Community was formed... Algeria (as part of France) was part of that group. Pan-Africanism began as a concept in the C20th century. The African National Congress in South Africa was formed as the South African Native National Congress in 1912.

Friday, May 18, 2018


Ndifuna ukuzama ukubhala izithuba kwezinye iilwimi. Baya kuba buhlungu, kodwa ndivulekile kakhulu kwimpendulo. Ndiza kusebenzisa izixhobo ezikhoyo. Oyintloko, kuba ndikulungele ukubukeka njenge-idiot ebantwini. Esinye isixhobo kukuba kukho abaninzi abantu abakwaziyo ukusetyenziswa kwezinye iilwimi. Njengoko i-bubble yesiNgesi ndihlala ngokuqhelekileyo kuthetha ukuba asiyi kuphulaphula amagama angaphantsi. Nceda undincede. Ngokucacileyo ndandizibhalelanga ngokwayo. Ndisebenzisa i-Google Translate. Ndisebenzisa iMemrise.


Klink Goed

Ek is altyd baie impressed by mense wat meer as een taal kan praat. ‘n Groot part van my identitie kom van my liefde van woorde. Ek weet dat ek kan dikwels te veel praat, maar die mees van die tyd kan ek my punt duur kry. In Engels. Die laaste keer wat ek moet in Afrikaans skryf of praat was by skool. Ek weet dat ek nie so slim in Afrikaans klink. Ek kry ‘n bietjie kwaad wanneer ek sien mense wat grappe maak oor iemand’s sleg Engels. Die kans dat Engels die persoon’s derde of vierde taal is, is hoog. Dit is ook miskien hoekom Engels mense probeer nie om in ander taale te praat. Ons maak baie foute. Miskien is dit a goeie ding om gewoon te kry met nie so slim te klink.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Flemish Ears

I enjoy talking Afrikaans to Flemish people. They assume the bits they don't understand are because of language differences rather than my really bad Durban Boy accent and limited vocabulary. If I don't know the Afrikaans word, I can just throw in the English word. Again, the Flemish person won't know this is because I didn't know the word. They are just excited that they can tell what I am trying to say. Flemish is the variety of Dutch spoken by those living in the Northern part of Belgium called Flanders. Actual Afrikaners know how bad my Afrikaans is. The irony is that until post-Boer War German-inspired National Socialism got in the way... Afrikaans was a kitchen language. It took the flavours from all the people who were mixing on the Southern tip of Africa from sea-based migration with local people. Afrikaans is the home language of 75% of mixed-race South Africans. Similarly isiXhosa was heavily influenced by people on the frontiers of the land-based migration. These two languages had their ears open. I like the idea of language going back to the kitchen. Far less emphasis on standardisation, and far more emphasis on getting excited by what people are trying to say.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Feeling First

'We very often reason from, rather than to, our convictions' (Hume). This is why we need to think twice about our intent when arguing. If it is simply to demonstrate what we believe like a Peacock looking for a mate, then crack on. If we want to see and understand, then we need to start with understanding people's feelings. Hume didn't believe that all feelings were equal. He also didn't believe in 'finding yourself' or a personal identity. We are just a bundle of ways of seeing things. A bundle that changes rapidly, and is deeply affected by our passions. We can see, recognise, support, and train those in each other. 'People have to learn to be more benevolent, more patient, more at ease with themselves and less afraid of others.'

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bubble Bursting

Part of the Cambridge Analytica outrage was due to the realisation that we were being manipulated. That other people were trying to do to us, what we try to do to others. Namely, change people's opinions to match our own. We are all marketers. If you have something you care about, and feel the world is not exactly the way you want it to be. If you are in any way an Activist. The more you signal your beliefs, and surround yourself by people who agree, the easier you are to manipulate. Someone who listens more than they speak has inbuilt protection. Someone who may agree with the person on the left, or on the right. Tribes are particularly easy to manipulate. Particularly if the individuals don't think for themselves, and merely fall in line with the majority. '50% + 1' rule is salt, fat, and sugar to the Gravy Train. Popularity is easy. Empowerment takes ears. If you want to empower yourself, burst your bubble. 

Popularity is Easy

Monday, May 14, 2018

More Questions

TV is a broadcast (one to many) mechanism. One of the things I like about Social Media, is that it has the potential to be a conversation. I don't like the Twitter/LinkedIn 'follower' idea - which implies broadcast. The Facebook 'friend' idea is closer, but it is difficult to maintain lots of friendships. I haven't thought of a better word. Conversant? Maybe another language has a better word. What this opening of conversation does is raise the bar on us individually. We have to get better at editing our thoughts. Refining them. Rather than trying to convince people, we can start exploring the opinions that challenge our thinking. At the moment, I worry that rather than exploring, we spend most of our time signalling which tribe we belong to. Reaching for pitchforks to get the people who disagree. We could blame the broadcasters if old-school media was a mess. Now, social media is a mirror. There is no one to blame.