Friday, August 18, 2006

UN Lebanon Force - Unfriendly to Israel?

In an amusing move, Indonesia and Malaysia have both pledged troops to form part of the United Nations peacekeeping force being set up in Southern Lebanon. Link.

The problem is that Indonesia and Malaysia are countries which do not recognize Israel or Israel's right to exist.

It would be an ironic twist if Israel were to have disabled a terrorist organization but gained an unfriendly army at their northern border.

Surely if an international force is going to keep the peace between nations, it actually has to recognize the existence of those nations? Don't they teach this in UN school?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Govt's Garlic Stand Under Attack

The South African Health Department's exhibit at the World AIDS Conference in Toronto was apparently vandalized by Treatment Action Campaign members who intended to show the world that South Africans aren't buying the crap the government is trying to tell us about AIDS. Link.

This probably isn't a very prudent move by TAC members. The government has been very reluctant to let the TAC take part in international discussion about AIDS, and perhaps now the TAC has just given the government the justification it needs to further stifle their, and perhaps other non-governmental, voices in the international arena.

Make it clear just how bullshit our government's stance on HIV/AIDS is, but don't resort to violence and public disturbance... It's the fastest way to discredit yourself and give the government the power to say, "I told you so! They're nutty as fruitcakes!"

Saturday, August 12, 2006

South Africa and the Death of Patriotism

As anyone who reads this stuff would know, I've been on a blogging hiatus recently. I haven't been anywhere, been involved with anyone or even been particularly busy. I haven't died either. I've just haven't written anything - It happens.

I wonder how many South Africans are patriots. Being a patriot means that you're proud of your country - you're proud of being South African and you're proud of what South Africans do.

I had the misfortune of stumbling across this blog, the URL of which was proudly posted in someone's MSN Messenger signature along with the words "The TRUTH!" It bears an unfortunate similarity to the infamous, which has garnered much more notoriety. For more of the same, look at its linked sites.

It and its kin do absolutely nothing for South Africa. They do not help prevent the problems they "report". What they do is cherry picking... or eyeball-plucking, if it creates a more effective image. They put every tragic story they can possibly find into one place and then "report" on it by charging the story with racist and chronically defeatist overtones. If one were to cut one's self, rub excrement into the wound, take a greatly magnified photograph of it and then label the photograph "myself", it would be analogous to what these shock sites do - only without the hints that Apartheid was better.

I was not impressed by Charles Nqakula's "whingers can go" remarks, but I wonder now if I didn't take them out of context. These "whingers" do not offer any solutions to the problems South Africa faces - they do not make proposals or criticize government policies. What they do is most accurately described as "whinging" - a spoilt child sitting in the corner and throwing a tantrum because things aren't going their way. No attempts at assistance, no ideas, no challenges to current methods - just completely negative and useless moaning.

One could dismiss these websites as mere trolls or quirks of the internet, but talk to just a few white South Africans about the possibility of emigration and you'll see that they're representative of what, tragically, seems to be a very prevalent view.

"This country is going down"

It doesn't even matter whether its true or not. What matters is the default response to such a perception - move. Go to another country as one might go to another restaurant if one became displeased with the service. Leave the country in mass exodus until the only ones left are those without the means to go somewhere else.

So, my country "is crap". What am I doing wrong, and what can I do to fix it?

Maybe when more South Africans have the courage and responsibility to ask themselves that question, our country will begin to overcome its challenges instead of languishing in self-hate and self-pity.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Less Than Pigs And Dogs

The gross disregard for human rights in neighboring Zimbabwe continues unhindered.

The ZANU-PF-controlled Zimbabwean parliament passed a set of laws last week which make it illegal for members of the same sex to hold hands, hug, kiss or show any commonly recognized form of physical affection. Link.

Like many other African countries, sexual intercourse between members of the same sex has long been punishable in Zimbabwe - since colonial days, I believe - but this latest strike has to be a relatively unique development in legislated homophobia.

"Leave whites to do that."

Apparently Mugabe is of the school that regards homosexuality as a "Western decadency" - a pox to be avoided, as it does not - or should not - exist in African society. This is very similar to those in the Middle-East who claim that homosexuality is a "problem" that simply does not exist in Arab society. A very dangerous belief, to be sure; mixing misguided nationalism or tribalism with racism, homophobia or xenophobia has very often been the ideological pretext for the most horrific events in human history.

Though he often uses religious rhetoric himself, Mugabe has also lashed out at Christian churches which accept gay people and bless same-sex unions - such as they can exist in Zimbabwe. Mugabe apparently thinks he has a firmer grip on theology than Christian clergy - threatening to jail them if they do not condemn homosexuality. One wonders if Mugabe's incredible egomania has any bounds.

Zimbabwe has just passed a law more petty and insidious than Apartheid South Africa's infamous Morality Act. It is reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984, but is no fiction to Zimbabwe's gay populace.

I wonder if that farce - the United Nations Human Rights Council - could find the time to bother themselves with Zimbabwe when most of their members have similar laws on the books. I wonder even if South Africa, as a member, would vote against Zimbabwe if the opportunity ever arose.

Monday, July 03, 2006

World Pride Jerusalem

World Pride, the largest international LGBT pride event, is scheduled to take place in the city of Jerusalem next month. Link.

Needless to say, there has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth from many religious sects - Christian, Jewish, Muslim... Virtually anyone you can shake an Old Testament at.

The center of both the Jewish and Christian faiths, and important to Muslims too, many members of these religions apparently see it simply as that - a city written about in their holy book.

"To hold [World Pride] in Jerusalem is a provocation and a declared mockery of all that is precious and sacred in the Holy city of Jerusalem in the eyes of the entire world." - City of Jerusalem Council Member

Much of the most vehement opposition to World Pride 2006 doesn't even come from the citizens of Jerusalem itself, but rather from international individuals and groups.

'New York Rabbi Yehuda Levin, of the Orthodox Rabbinical Alliance of America and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the US and Canada is currently on his sixth visit to Jerusalem in recent months to oppose World Pride.

At a weekend news conference he called the gay parade the "spiritual rape of Jerusalem."

"This is not the homo-land, this is the Holy Land," he declared.'

Jerusalem is a city with a population of over 700 000. Muslims, Jews, Christians and others call it home - just like any other city on Earth. Its population is made up of heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals - just like any other city on Earth.

It is truly sad that so many religious figures and organizations see Jerusalem as some kind of mythical Emerald City - the ancient sites and artifacts apparently blinding them to the fact that it's full of real people with their real-world concerns and problems. People in Jerusalem are no "holier" or "less gay" then people in New York, Tehran, Beijing or Johannesburg.

It's almost as though some people walk into Jerusalem with a religious text in one hand and a tourist map in the other - feeling as though they are on a trip to some sort of religious theme park catered especially for their beliefs. Gay people... People who don't share their beliefs... These people must simply crawl into the woodwork and disappear - they clearly have no place in the Christian's holy city, or the Muslim's holy city, or the Orthodox Jew's holy city. Gay people don't exist in God's holy city.

Israel, as one of the few Middle-Eastern countries which doesn't persecute gays, is a necessary location for a gay pride event. There are only so many struggles left to fight in places like New York, Berlin or San Francisco. On the other hand, gays are still viciously persecuted in much of the Middle-East, executed in many places. This is the way it would be in Jerusalem too, if Hamas and their ilk had their way.

Gays get killed for how they are in the "holy" parts of the world, and yet so many religious people would chose to ignore this and pretend that gays don't exist at all in Jerusalem, or the "Holy Land". There is open season on gays wherever their god or their ancient mythology is concerned.

I wonder if they are simply extremely selfish, deluded or if they would happily join those who execute people for how they are.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Marriage and Semantics

When Parliament gets around to it, or before December 2006 (whichever comes first), South Africa will join the small group of countries which provide equal “marriage” rights to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. (The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada.)

In the government’s view, “marriage” is a contract between two people who love each other, and are committed to each other, very much– therefore; they feel they should receive additional practical and economic rights as well as additional responsibilities, especially for each other.

With that view in mind, it’s difficult to see how one can justify providing marriage only to different-sex couples. One has to perform a genital check to confirm that these people really love each other… rather primitive. Evidently the twelve Constitutional Court judges who presided over the deciding South African case felt the same way.

The ANC supported the Court’s decision, as did the DA. Actually, one gets the impression than neither party really cares – it doesn’t amount to too many votes either side of the issue. These are things Americans bother themselves with when they don’t want to think about the war.

The only (vaguely important) ones who did object (publicly, at least) were those stalwarts of progressive human rights development in sub-Saharan Africa – the African Christian Democratic Party and the Freedom Front Plus.

The VF+ had this to say:

”It is shocking that in a country where more than 70% of the population is Christian, the highest court in this country legalized gay-marriages. The view of the FF Plus is that a marriage is an institution of God solemnized between a man and a woman. The other religions in South Africa also reject the concept of gay-marriages.

Christians should take note that the highest norm of the current political order is the constitution with its core values and not the Bible as the Word of God. It should be realized that this decision of the Court of Appeal, according to which gay-marriages are now legal in South Africa, is a logical outcome of the ANC constitution with its gender-equality principle, which was amongst others, supported by the DA. This pronouncement has far-reaching consequences for South African law, as well as for communities.

This judgment was delivered by Judge of Appeal Edwin Cameron, a gay-rights activist, who has already admitted that he is HIV-positive.

An attempt to tar all Christian denominations with the VF’s brush, nay… ALL South African religions, an attempt to afford an ancient Jewish mythological text greater importance than our Constitution in our modern democracy, the use of “gender-equality” as if it were a bad thing, and an implied slur against HIV+ people. Wow. *Freedom* Front.

And the ACDP:

“The ACDP is in agreement with the views of the Marriage Alliance, consisting of some 70 denominations representing some 18 million people, that ‘no State or Court should seek to alter the traditional, and, from time immemorial, universal understanding of God-given marriage as heterosexual, and of course in terms of Christian understanding, also monogamous. We affirm that the traditional understanding of marriage is correct, that it is the God-given context for male/female bonding, mutual care, sexual intimacy and inter-dependent support. Then it is the God-given place for the procreation of children and the production of the next generation in the is the proper, best, safest and most wonderful context and shelter for the nurturing and raising of children. Because marriage and the family antedates and precedes the state and its various organs, the state cannot change marriage but only recognise it.”

The common factor here is that “God” thing. These people don’t actually have a logical reason for opposing same-sex marriage – they do have a common imaginary “friend” (I use the term “friend” loosely), though. Somewhere along the bumpy ride South Africa has taken, these kids were sleeping at the back of the bus and dreaming about ghosts and people coming back from the dead.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Dream away. Just don’t come and try to tell me how to live my life according to your pre-1st Century CE diet, sexual health and fantasy books.

Something some significantly more astute Christians have hit upon is this: Why don’t we stop calling civil marriage “marriage”? Yes, let’s call it something else – like civil unions. “Marriage” would no longer be an official government term. It wouldn’t matter – everyone would still call each other husband and wife… or husband and husband… or wife and wife… or whatever. Link.

I’m inclined to think that it’s a damn good idea. Among other nations, the UK government has allowed gays to enter into civil partnerships, which have exactly the same rights as marriages – they just have a different name. Great… only why are you still calling the heterosexual version “marriage”?

Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, religion is further amputated from government and everyone wins. Now if only all Christians (and their imaginary friends) thought that way…

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Seeing Things in Black and White...

"Nkosinathi Biko, son of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, said whites should take responsibility for the sins of apartheid." Link.

Yeah, because the TRC has made it impossible to charge those who were *actually* responsible.

"The uprising is being celebrated in the wake of a firestorm touched off by Archbishop Desmond Tutu who remarked that whites had not shown enough gratitude for the magnanimity shown by blacks.?

Thanks for not being genocidal maniacs. Honestly, I mean, we know that all black people are really murderous thugs. When they aren't out slaughtering people, they have to be thanked for rendering a special favour...

The above is sarcasm.

It's sad when you have to repeatedly thank someone for not murdering you.

"Biko, who was six years old when his father died in detention in 1977 after being tortured by security police, said the new generation of black South Africans might not be as gracious as their contemporaries."

Was that a racially-motivated threat of violence? Nah, couldn't have been.

"Niehaus said whites had failed to recognise that they were the "benefactors of apartheid" and "continue to benefit to this day".

It's getting a bit cliche and bleeding-heart to say, but no one of generation Y asked for Apartheid... black or white.

"We seem to want to forget too quickly the damages of apartheid that have been inflicted."

There is a world of difference between remembering something terrible and assuming guilt for it...

A lot of people are proud of being South African. New South African. Some people would like to make it difficult, it would seem.


Our country's history should never and can never be forgotten. Blaming the work of Christian conservative extremists on *every* white South African is short-sighted, racist and counter-productive, however.

Had I lived twenty or thirty years ago, I would have been in deep shit. Libertarian, atheist, anti-racist, gay-rights activist living under Apartheid. I'm sure it would have been great.

Imagine if I asked all heterosexuals to say sorry to gay people...