Tag Archives: culture

#data will fall

In a ground-breaking move, South African mobile operators have announced a deal whereby people who cannot afford data would be able to barter their goods in exchange for data bundles. The new deal is set to come into effect in 2017 as some ground work needs to be done to design a structure of how this system will work practically.

Speaking to reporters, Vodacom’s Jal nied ta jus Pay said, “we are tired of the FOMO that is going on out there because people cannot afford data and as one of the biggest networks in the country we have taken it upon ourselves to bring data to the people.”

 

The system will see collection centres being set up across the country to collect goods and other items in exchange for airtime/recharge vouchers. Although it is still unclear what goods will be exchanged for which amounts of airtime, unconfirmed reports also suggest that those who have nothing to exchange will even be offered the chance to get contract deals as long they can work it off in 24 months.

 

The deals on offer range from getting a Huawei p9 with 1G of data per month in exchange for doing the Vodacom CEO’s gardening for 2 years to getting an S7 with 5G of data per month for doing lap dances at Teasers on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The latter deal would see the club covering your contract costs.

 

Experts around the world are hailing this new cost model as the way most mobile network providers will go especially in developing countries where data costs are so prohibitive that some people are even unable to respond to friend requests from as far back as 2 years ago.

 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Communication said, “hopefully this brings down the cost of airtime and who knows people could free up more money to afford university fees making the feesmustfall hashtag obsolete and in turn all the (insertproblemhere)mustfall hashtags”

Rent-a-darkie.co.za

token white guy from the le brons
Liven up your party with a token white guy Source: The LeBrons

Struggling to find a job, I was hoping to offer my services (for hire) as a black person to any willing white South Africans because let’s face it, these days black is the new cool. Any white person (especially a famous one) living in Africa who wants to be taken seriously has to have a large crew of black Africans to claim as friends so that they can easily whip these friends out in public when they are accused of racism (which happens a lot to white South Africans).

What I was offering was a service to make it simpler for white South Africans to have black friends without having to drive to Soweto to seek them out on their own. Within 3 days they would receive a rental agreement and price quote. They would just submit a deposit and plan an event. I would then take care of the rest.

In this age of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) my plan was to offer white South Africans the chance to advance their business and social reputation by giving them a connection with a black person i.e a “blackgent” (for a price). These “blackgents” could be taken to any gathering, event or even to the office to keep things lively and add clout to the image of the white person who would have hired them.

I had a business plan, a name for my website and I had five friends who were willing to be “blackgents”, a term I coined to describe the sales agents of my company. I took it from the term sales agents. Since they are black and they would be selling the black experience to white people then “blackgents” would be cool, creative right? I know, thank you.

Anyway, I was well on my way to creating my website http://www.rentadarkie.co.za only to find out about www.rent-a-negro.com. It seems someone thought of this way before I did. Granted this site is American but there I was looking at my idea plastered all over their website, to my great disappointment.

I had to reconsider my idea, and then it hit me! How about I rent out white people to black people? Indeed, given the amount of racial tension that goes around in this country whenever there’s beef between a black person and a white person (because people of the same race never have beef) I thought my idea could work the other way round.

South Africa has a growing black middle class. These people have money and they have status but, if general opinion is to be believed, they obviously lack the creativity, articulacy and attractiveness of white people so that is where I would come in.

As a black owner of my company any BEE quota requirements would easily be satisfied. Besides, it would be a refreshing change to have white people working for black people.

In practice what would happen is that after agreeing rental terms, the rented legoa (sotho for white person) would arrive at a black middle class event prepped and ready to go. He/she would interact with guests/friends/colleagues according to the expectations outlined in the contract, making the black person who hired him/her look more intelligent and more cultured. All they would have to do is enjoy the event and let the legoa excite and impress the guests with his big words and his/her nice hair.

The legoa could also double up as a driver guaranteeing you less ‘random’ traffic stops. If the police think he/she is the owner of your new Bentley you would not be asked any questions pertaining to the ownership of the car etc.

At KFC you would spend less time in the queue. We all know legoa ’s  don’t queue for long at food outlets and they get better customer service. He/she could just bundle your order in with his/hers and your chicken order will come out after a minimal waiting time, far less than the two minutes KFC advertises to everyone else, but then again everyone else wouldn’t have hired a legoa .

Just like that, my plan was back on track. I’m still trying to fine tune it but my goal is to serve today’s black South Africans by allowing them the chance to promote their connection with a creative, articulate, friendly, attractive, and pleasing white person.

This service comes without the commitment of learning about classical music, opera, rugby, challenging your own BEE privilege, or being labelled a ‘coconut’. In fact, rent-a-legoa .co.za will allow you to use your money and status to your advantage! In addition, your money will go to support the ‘previously advantaged’ in the South African community.

My mother is on facebook

Dear Mark Elliot Zuckerberg

I am writing to you not to complain but just to give you an idea of what you started with this FB (facebook) thing of yours. It was all cool at first. I send you a friend request, you accept it, you write on my wall, I write on your wall, we post status updates, we comment on each other’s statuses, we start groups, we upload photos, we send links, we poke each other…you know, that kind of thing.

Then one day I got a friend request from a lady called Nomalanga “Pinky Pinks” Ncube aka, my mother. I must let you know that down here, (because everyone says down here when they talk about Africa), FB is still a novelty, not to us, but to our parents. I swear it’s like they all got a memo telling them about this new thing.

It just seems to me that the media is becoming so invasive. I will give you an example. When I refused the friend request from Pinky, I got home and was given the worst chewing out ever by my mother. I promptly proceeded to accept her friend request. And here I was thinking I was free to accept or not accept people as friends on FB.

It only took a day for this decision to be confirmed as an ill thought one. I logged in to my account to find that someone called Pinky had uploaded some photos and tagged me in all of them. I was further angered to learn that all these were my baby photos, the majority of which featured a naked me. Pretty cute or pretty embarrassing depending on which side of 50 you stand (in terms of age). I mean, really I didn’t upload any pictures of her naked on my FB.

Now, although people my mother’s age are becoming computer literate they are known to have lapses in concentration when it comes to using certain gadgets (yes, she refers to FB as a gadget). I won’t go into detail but let’s just say it took her a while to figure out that everyone could read the stuff she posted on my wall.

In pre-school I was very short (I still am). And as kids are known to do, I got bullied quite a lot. My mother would come to the school and throw a fit in my defence. Now that I’m older I thought those days were gone but oh no, since she became my friend’’ she jumps to my defence whenever anyone disagrees with any comments that I make on FB.

Where are those ‘cultured’ African women with long dresses when you need them? They should be right there telling her how on page 53 of “How to be African: Women are also from Mars” it says that it is against our culture for a woman her age to join facebook. How it says single women her age should be doing more productive things like knitting endless supplies of scarves or selling Tupperware. How it says that, at her age, she has no right to live her life and call herself ‘Pinky’. How she has no right to pick up the pieces of a life left in that state mostly by a father who I barely know. Oh by the way…it was father’s day yesterday.

I admit, facebook has changed the way people communicate especially here in Africa. Not everyone has access to the internet on a laptop like you do Mark but most people have cell phones that can access facebook in some way, shape or form (to my great dislike off course.) FB has been really useful in many ways, most importantly in connecting people but for the love of me Mark, can we please go back to the days when facebook was for college students only.

Love,

Short, dark skinned, skinny malnourished African kid without a shirt on.

PS:  I’m actually very light skinned, I’m not skinny or malnourished just that you guys rarely notice us until you see us      on some CNN clip somewhere.

 

What is culture?

Defining culture

Defining culture is not an easy task because culture is a concept that has a wide
application. A useful definition or an operational one is that suggested by
Raymond Williams (1976) who proposes that culture should be defined as a way of
life. A way of life that “includes material, intellectual and spiritual
dimensions of cultural life” (Purvis, 2006).  

 It is here that the contested nature of the term culture becomes clear. The
difficulty is that not everyone in South Africa lives the same life even
though they all live in the same country.

Key Concepts in Culture

Culture is not an innate thing but is learnt knowledge, it involves groups or
collectives and is organised in certain ways. Key concepts in culture include
things such as: subjectivity and identity; texts and readers; power; popular
culture; representation; culture and signifying practices.

As individuals our interaction with other individuals in society is heavily
influenced by how we view those individuals in relation to ourselves or how
they view themselves in relation to us. Power becomes an important factor to
consider in these relationships because it is the ‘force which subordinates one
set of people to another’ (Barker, 2003, p.9). For example during colonisation
in Africa most locals were subordinate to their colonial masters. This
influenced the relationship they had during that time and even years after the
end of colonisation. Indeed, Africans are still trying to recover from this way of thinking due to the legacy of colonisation. Cultural studies also examine these relationships between subordinate groups and
dominant groups.

It is through subordination that the ideas of certain groups end up becoming more
dominant than the ideas of less dominant groups.  The concept of hegemony becomes relevant in
this case. In this example hegemony would promote the idea that powerful groups
in society use this power to exercise social authority over everyone else so
much so that their views about what is culture in that society are taken as
being universal. As a result of this dominant position these groups are also
able to influence how the world is represented in important ways. Cultural
texts are understood in different ways in different social contexts but power
can influence representation or how the social world is characterized.

Although cultural studies focus on all these aspects the main focus of cultural studies
is culture. Culture refers to the practices, representations, languages and
customs of any specific society (Barker, 2003). Language itself is a major
signifying practice because it is through language that the world is represented
to us. It has been said that language is a carrier of culture so to learn a
language is also to learn about the culture of the speakers of that language. This
is important if we want the world we live in to be a tolerant space. It is this
lack of understanding other people’s cultures that often causes tensions that
exhibit themselves in xenophobic attacks as a case in point. Every conflict
that arises in our society is not due to this lack of understanding. However,
the recognition that we are created by different social settings, histories,
experiences and cultures is a step in the direction of understanding that there
is no universal way of life. It is also helpful in acknowledging the fact that
culture is constantly evolving as it is not set in stone.

 

Race and Racism

Race is a very sensitive topic particularly in South Africa. As a black African race and racism are concepts that have shaped my life to such an extent that they have even affected who and what I have become. Some theorists refer to the concepts of race and “race.” The former alludes to biological distinctions and the latter to social and cultural constructions. This distinction is not always so straightforward when it comes to race but “race” in quotation marks is used to call attention to the extremely constructed nature of the term. “Race” is a culturally formed expression but no matter how much the concept may be shown to be unscientific, ‘it seems to persist and reinvent itself and so requires critical academic examination.’

From as far back as the time of early human writing there is evidence of the existence of views about the differences between peoples of different cultures. These views often emphasized physiological differences to explain differences in mannerisms and intelligence (Appiah, 1999). The early Greek and Hebrew thinkers also used certain criteria to explain differences between people. The Greeks explained their supposed superiority over people of Asia by citing geographical factors. The argument here was that the barren soils of Greece had made the Greeks tougher and more independent therefore making them more superior than the Asians (Appiah, 1999, p. 1575). The Hebrews placed emphasis on the relationship that people had with God (Appiah, 1999, p. 1575). What emerges from this way of thinking is that people have always been seeking to explain their superiority over other people by suggesting the presence of certain factors that inherently make the others weak.

 

‘For many centuries the western world has accorded superiority to lighter skin types and relative inferiority to darker skin types’ (Chancer & Watkins, 2006, p.50). Their ability to do this is related to the history of the rest of the world and the way it was conquered by the west resulting in them being the ‘in-group’ and the rest of the world being the ‘out-group.’ As the in- group they were in the position of determining what was deemed normal or abnormal. To buttress this biased world view the west had theorists and academics that came forward with ideas from their different disciplines that explained their superiority over people of other skin colours. Immanuel Kant is an example of one such person. Writing at a time when opposition to the institution of slavery was rising in Europe Kant used anthropology and geography to come up with a hierarchy of races. This hierarchy explained the link between skin colour, geography and anthropology and intelligence.

 

As opposed to being the truth Kant’s ideas were just a way of normalising the power relations that existed between Europe and the rest of the non-white world (McCarthy, 2003). This was just a way for Europe to continue the ill-treatment of non-white people. For, example Ideas like this supported slavery in that it was stated that even though Africans were lazy they made good slaves because of their docile nature, that is, they were incapable of performing other tasks except those of servants. Ideas like this also support the view that when Europeans embarked on imperialist policies in Africa and elsewhere they did it in innocence to bring commerce, civilisation and Christianity to backward uncivilised, lazy savages. This ignores the other motives that Europe had by coming to Africa. For example even after the abolition of slavery Africa still offered Europe a source of cheap labour. Africa was also a source of raw materials for European businesses. With the colonial administration in place Europe was able to take advantage of this in a way that benefited the mother country in Europe and its white citizens residing in Africa (Rodney, 1981).

 

The idea that a set of inherent characteristics were passed down from one generation to another based merely on race sounds antiquated in today’s world. However not so long ago these very ideas informed government policy in places like South Africa and Nazi Germany before that. In both these countries the definition of who was superior was based purely on race. Every one had their place in these societies. The advantaged group was the white race and everyone else was considered inferior therefore they had to take a corresponding place in society. This happened in every sphere of society be it in the economy, education even in housing and access to health.

 

Definitions of race are an issue of controversy. This is due to the existence of many ideas about the issue. If we look at history however we realise that they way this concept came about was because of a certain context. It was not inherently in existence. It was a combination of the power relations that existed at the time and the imperialist policies of others that influenced how we define race even today. The end of colonisation has not coincided with an end to racism or has it necessitated an end to the need to continue to critically analyse this concept of race. Certain things have remained the same however the issues around racism have changed. For example the issue in South Africa is no longer about discriminatory policies but more about the legacy of those policies. In my view current theories on race do very little to show the relationship between olden day thinking on race and current ideas about issues of tribalism where skin colour even amongst people of the same race is said to determine behaviour.

 

Granted the ideas of Kant have no space in a world looking to transcend the category of race but so many other current situations show evidence of this way of thinking. For example the case of the white South African who applied for refugee status in Canada based on the fact that he is a victim of black criminals in South Africa stinks of the same kind of thinking applied by Kant. It ignores the context in which crime occurs in South Africa and assumes a universalistic approach to issues of race and behaviour. If there is to be a move forward there needs to be recognition of race not as an isolated concept but one related to others such as gender and class.