26 June 2008

Life, l'amitie and all other L's

So, its been a while since I've written a seemingly positive note... so here goes..

I will start with a quote from Antonio Smith courtesy of a Spur sugar sachet:
"Enjoy the little things in life...for one day you may look back and realise they were the BIG things"

Life is about cherishing the little fleeting moments and immortalizing them in our memories for they define who we are and possibly who we shall become... Often people live in regret, crying that they still haven't achieved their dreams, that their bigger picture is hazier than a Picasso reject... and yet each day we do a little, we do something. Each day, we touch someone's life, often unwittingly.

Regret is the deepest sign of weakness, its an internalisation of defeat. Why can't we all just seize the day? There comes a time when you just have to turn over the page and stop living in the past (or living a dream like I'm prone to doing)...Its not worth the stress after all...You just have to let go, let loose.

Its a rude awakening when you realise that you can not always be a winner in life.Comme maman dit toujours : "Quand vous gagnez toute l'heure, vous appreciez jamais vraiment votre succes". Profound words that have taught me to appreciate the little things.

I need to constantly remind myself that life is too short to be troubled. Heal...start for today and for YOU.. After all...your mistakes (or past weaknesses) can only make you stronger... This brings me to my next and last point.. the necessity of friends. I'd probably be a hermit were it not for the fact that I can't imagine a life in which I can't share with another (others). Would there be a point?

The other day I was listening to my music on shuffle and this catchy phrase kinda stuck... yes, it is by Snoop Dogg!
"There will be ups and downs...smiles and frowns...Share with me, fairy tales are make believe"

So, yes.. there is some inspiration in rap music after all! Indeed from this and in life I've learnt that one's most valuable asset is the company s/he keeps...Without whom life would be a lonesome journey...a journey not worth taking. For whats the point of smiling or frowning if noone sees you do it?

In appreciating my friends, I look at my own mistakes. Friends are, after all, human and while I err, so too can they. So, I've learnt to forgive and forget, to smile at every chance I get and always remember that when things are hard....they could be worse...Lift my head above the water and jus KEEP WALKING.

Life is a struggle...a constant war between what you wish it could be and what it wants to be..No one person has ever won a war on their own.If you can turn to your left and be received with a're lucky...if you can turn to the right as well and still find a are among the wealthiest in this world...for wealth is not measured by the amount of money in your bank account, but by the joy that surrounds you each day...

Maybe I talk sh*t..who's to tell...I'm still fighting my battle, but with a smile :)

On niggas, faggots and the like

I've seriously had it with all the hate in this world. I always say that hate is an external manifestation of internal self-detestation. For if we all thought we were adequate and had high esteems of ourselves, then we wouldn't "need" to hate. In hate, we show just how much we feel threatened. Indeed hate is fear disguised. The "other" is only as different as you make them out to be. Maybe the solution is to cease labelling oneself.. for then, you wouldn't have a justification for labelling anyone else... aah random thoughts...

The other night all these thoughts ran through my head as I sat down with friends for dinner ... As with most of my conversations, debate arose. The issue was: "niggas", or more aptly the use of words like "nigga", "kaffir" and such like.. Naturally our debate progressed to other pejorative language uses such as referring to homosexuals as "queer", "faggots" etc... My note will however focus on the primary source of the debate: NIGGA
What was the debate about you ask? It can't have been about whether such terms, with their negative connotations, were indeed derogatory for thats clear. Our debate was about who is justified to use these terms.

In my opinion it is NOT OK for anyone to call me a nigga, not even myself. I thought my stance was only natural and that everyone should agree (I tend to do that). I argued that there is no such thing as a "nigga" and thus no one should be called that nor should anyone use the term. I was fascinated by the response. Not only did my assertion not have overwhelming support, it was practically rejected in its entirety. I was told that because the term "nigga" was historically used to refer to "people of my kind", I had justification in "reclaiming" its use. Dare I say, I still find that opinion appalling! I was never a "nigga" and I find the use of phrases such as "people of my kind" does nothing to solve the many hate based issues the world faces today.

I don't see the worth in (re)claiming a derogatory tag, all it does is perpetuate the "hate" I constantly speak of. How can reclaiming the term better me? By calling myself "nigga", am I not joining arms with the very people who look down upon me? And what governs which term I can reclaim? I am a "nigga" today, a "coconut" tomorrow. What benefit do I gain from insulting myself? I don't want to reclaim a negative tag, but if I must, then there should be no problem with everyone calling me "nigga".. after all, if I call myself a nigga, then what harm does it do me if someone else does too?

I guess for some its OK to "hate" oneself, but not to be hated. (my use of the word "hate" here is synonymous with tagging oneself and possibly internalising stereotypes)
I say this because, Jacob pointed out that in gay circles it was OK to call homosexual men "queer" and lesbians "dykes", but that people who weren't gay shouldn't be allowed to. I fail to understand the logic in that madness. I desperately need someone to enlighten me. How does calling yourself and the people you love "queer" - a synonym of "odd" - not make you seem self-deprecating or self-loathing? And if my sexuality (or my race) is but a mere fragment of my identity, why should I allow it to define who I am?

I am many things, but if you can't call me Ottilia (the only all-encompassing word that defines me), then rather call me nothing at all. I don't care what popular culture tells you is OK, I am not a nigga and labels really are for boxes.

As with all other things... this is MY opinion... you might think differently. And if you do, tell me why :)

The "other" is a state of mind

And the headlines read: "16000 people internally displaced in a week, 34 reported dead... when will it ever end?"

Its sad that our world is cluttered with degenerate human beings who, despite millions of years of evolution, still fail to accept that the "other" does not really exist. What cowardice it is to attack someone because of (mis)perceived differences. The problem of xenophobia is particularly riling because more often than not it manifests itself in violence..

It amazes me that one can discriminate against another because they hail from across an imaginary line. People forget that we are all one and the same despite some differences in external physical appearance, concentrations of melanin, language.. Even if we were "different", whatever happened to loving thy neighbour as you love thyself? Is it so hard to express positive emotion? Must we continue to seek success by hurting others?

Xenophobia and all other forms of hatred towards people we perceive as the "other" only show how much we reject our own adequacy. As if by killing off those you "fear" are taking away your resources (resources which you claim entitlement to.. whether or not you really are entitled to them is another issue altogether) you'll suddenly become better... solve the problem. Hate is a cancer,that cannot be "cured" by cutting off the undesirable bits.

And yet, we sit and watch as South African across the country assault and murder foreigners... Did South African people not recently celebrate and ululate at the demise (or perceived demise) of apartheid? Did it "just" happen? It was through the actions of a vast majority of people - most of whom were foreigners - that South Africa became "free". Through the actions of people who believed that even when the worst seems to be upon us, something CAN be done. Harbouring the exiled freedom "fighters" is but one of many ways through which foreigners aided the South African "revolution"... Were it not for the same foreigners being attacked today, "freedom" would not exist in South Africa (well, not for most people anyway...)

The sad thing is while groups are sprouting across facebook condemning the attacks, very little is actually being done... mostly, I suppose because of the negative attitudes that pervade our society today...

I have heard suggestions that the perpetrators of this xenophobic violence should be killed. Quelle horreur! So, these people want to KILL the people who are attacking foreigners. To what end? To perpetuate the cycle of violence?
The xenophobics are clearly in the wrong, but killing people off because you think they are wrong is exactly what the xenophobics wished dead are doing!

On the other hand there are those people who argue that, even though xenophobia is a problem, nothing can really be done. I am appalled by such defeatist attitudes! There IS something that can be done. IMHO only someone who sees some justification to the violence would suggest that nothing can be done.

Earlier someone said to me that all these drives for marches are a waste of time and an elitist way of dealing with xenophobia. I can only say that its unfortunate that such ignorance can exist at varsity level. Marches are an effective way... clearly this person was not aware of the school children of Soweto, who on June 16, 1976 marched in protest of the apartheid regime, or the women who marched to the Union building in 1956 to protest pass laws. If they were they wouldn't have made such a statement.. Indeed, it was through marches such as these that the tide of change began to rise...

Yes,society thinks what they are doing is appalling but what are WE doing about it? By sitting back and doing nothing are we not part of the problem? Issues such as these should be debated in the public domain, protests should be held and those who have, through their xenophobic violence, harmed others (psychologically, physically, emotionally or otherwise) should be brought to book...

16 April 2008

Those rose-tinted glasses: Shall I watch my Zimbabwe whither?

I love my country... I'm sure my previous rant about my Zim pride shows that enough. However, I find myself feeling terribly helpless when news from home reaches me or when I am deeply disturbed by images of poverty and strife. And yet, here I am self-professed humanitarian and human rights activists deciding that I'd rather another year here in South Africa than face the vagaries of home. I wish there was something I could do, but all my parents have taught me is the "flight" before "fight".... How you ask?
When ESAP hit my beautiful country... our family moved to Switzerland, we stayed there until - it only makes sense to me now - the drought years seemed over.. And then in 2000, there was a Constitutional Referndum and white commercial farmers were dispossessed of their land... my family moved to France. I am not using my own parents cowardice as a veil from which to hide behind, but I am suggesting that they have inculcated in me a chicken run mentality. For can I really love Zimbabwe if subconsciously I am planning to emigrate back to my adoptive country of Switzerland upon completion of my post-graduate studies? Or am I one of those arm-chair commentators who pretend to grieve but would rather someone else sort out the problem? Am I not part of THAT generation of people that the world claims will make a change? Or have I been made to run away from that too?

I feel like a feral child where Zimbabwe is concerned, I look at it through rose tinted glasses and as it whithers I somehow see it grow. I constantly tell people what a beautiful country it is and yet I fail to understand how such a country can be filled with such complacent borderline despondent people.. Almost as if all the masochists were born to live in Zimbabwe. For how can all the action we do be signing online petitions that clearly go nowhere?

I have a nephew, poor sod was born in 2001 and thus doesn't really know the vibrant Zimbabwe of yesteryear.... who upon his first visit to what I consider the dirtiest, ugliest city in South Africa (Johannesburg), called me and said: "Aunty OT, their lights don't go off all the time here!"... It was then, that I realised I couldn't just run away from my country without some sort of a fight. I can't just sit back and watch the next generation be engulfed in the rot that is the economic and political situation of my homeland. Zimbabwe remains a beautiful country, slowly being made to decay by people whose only concern is themself.

I still feel helpless, but I shan't be for much longer... my tunnel has light at its end and I have started to run towards it, for crawling will get me there too late and bruise my knees and my ego... I am running, running back to the Zimbabwe my parents made me return to for those brief two years in 1998.

14 April 2008

La vie

There's nothing more exhausting or life-sapping than living a life you hate. Why wear the shoes that someone else wants you to wear, that are obviously the wrong size and for the uptight shrew from next door?

You only have one life to live.. Live the life you love and you'll love the life you live. When its all done, you can look back in glee and see that it was all worth it. After all when you're dead all that remains are the memories people have of you, for when the casket's locked - what you are is gone, but who you were remains.

If you realise that you're working under par for something, think hard about it: Is this what YOU want for yourself, or what someone else has made you believe its what you want?

Turn the music up, sip some Merlot and live your dreams.. (or if you are the uptight shrew next door.. do what uptight shrews do *shrug*)

On Love

What is this terrible thing called 'love'? That makes fools of wise people? That brings people to their knees and draws many to tears? Can we only experience love if we have experienced heartache? How do you tell? Whatever love is, for me it seems dangerous territory, unchartered, violent and wild...a territory that I fear to tread for I lose myself. Have I lost myself already?

Can one truly love and not be loved in return? Would that be the utmost dedication? Would that be the utmost stupidity? Would it be true?Indeed the whirlpool of emotions I feel.. the rush of blood to my head (it was inevitable...Chris Martin is a demi-god) can only mean one thing. I've fallen (why not risen?) in love... in love with a mirage... if only it were real...if only the waves that guided me to this barren island had not led me to you...if only

You are the weakness inherent in me... Were you a deity, I would be your one true believer. I would turn to all the religious bigotry that I wish away and loathe so much to comfort me and to give expression to my obviously unfounded admiration of all that you are. But alas you are neither a deity nor am I a believer.

It is my awareness of that fine distinction; what you really are and what I sometimes - in my drunkeness - make you out to be, that saves me from losing myself entirely.Too strong is my apprehension of all that is deified that I cannot even bring myself to accept that maybe, just maybe in the slightest I have blinded my own judgment by exalting you to a position I dare not allocate to anyone (or anything) else. Indeed I am as lost as I have ever been.

I, the masochist

So, I've been single for over 2years now (if you'll excuse my minor periodic stints with my boomerang ex-boyfriends), I admit its quite fun at times, but the majority of times I feel like a Roman Catholic hermit whipping my back with a leather thong to purge myself of my sins.. simply put - I feel terribly terribly sad.

So I ask myself, if loneliness sucks so much for me, why don't I do something about it? Is my loneliness a state of mind? Do I consciously choose to make myself suffer or am I merely protecting myself from future pain? How can I possibly know when I've taken it one step too far? When I've reached that proverbial "point-of-no-return"? Is it when I realise that even I don't want to be with myself? Is that how terribly I view the person I've become?So here's a self-reflection..

My very close friend Ehi says it frankly to me, that I'm sad & lonely by choice... I used to beg to differ.. but now I'm not so sure. I think I'm just a bitter person, who is slowly coming to terms with the fact that maybe, just maybe its time I stop being such a Miss Havisham (go read Great Expectations) and open myself up to the possibility that maybe I do want to be with someone..
Maybe Mr Could-Be-Just-Right really does exist!What was the point of this somewhat meaningless rant? I'm over hurting myself & denying my feelings. So the bull is in front of me and I'm grabbing its horns. Best beware he he he

Voice in my head

Surely the voice in my head must be crazier than I am.. or so I thought. It seems now that I denied its rationality because it seemed to me to be just another form of unwarranted word vomit..when indeed it was the truth, in my head there plain for me to hear. Not all things are promised and all those things that seem too good to be true, usually are.

Life isn't about having a great time all the time..its about having that one wet and grey week that makes the one sunny day that follows all the more worth the wait.I suppose I should have known earlier that the voice in my head is my reason, my sense, my sanity and not my madness.

The rainy days don't seem so bad now... I know there'll be sun soon......and even when the little voice seems to quieten down and leave me straining to listen, I know that it is desperately trying to tell me that: "Ottilia you are NOT a department store dummy with all the charisma of aspirin, you are full of life and promise. Seize the day".. yes the little voice has been telling me to seize the day a lot lately. I think I might just... someone has to do it!

No blood to let

My heart shatters into a million pieces, but never bleeds - not for you, not for any man..No person can right the wrong of betrayal that my beacon committed those 5years ago... the thought of which fills my throat with rancid bile.Each broken piece strengthens me...So break away, for the demon beneath is slowly being unearthed.Streams of blood will colour the road on which your tread.... not of red, but of guilt, of shame.The shame of being a stereotype... You are shackled by your betrayal, not of me, but of yourself.Tear away, break it into tiny pieces. You may hurt me, but I do not cry.You have created a succubus, um al duwayce, a praying mantis, a black widow.Soon you will learn.My heart shatters, but it will never bleed.

From whence my fire burns

I have a little something that I will share with you all on xenophobia..

"I'm from Zimbabwe *jeers in the peanut gallery* and I'm very proud of the fact *more jeers*Being Zimbabwean doesn't make me a stereotype of the Southern African country from which I hail. My nationality is but a tip of the vast Ottilia iceberg.

I have grown up aware of my "Zimness", but it was never something that brought (brings?) me shame.Growing up a 3rd culture child, no one defined me as "The Zimbabwean Girl", I was Ottilia. I was the class clown, the wise-cracker, the grunge-addicted child with mild OCD, the sketch artist, the one who always smiled and often burst into tears for no apparent reason... THAT was Ottilia!

Xenophobia was something I didn't even know existed... It wasn't possible to be xenophobic in the environment in which I grew up.. It just wasn't possible when you were surrounded by "foreigners"; when your closest "relative" was your father's Italian peer. Being xenophobic would have meant hating myself... Paradoxically - or not so - to me xenophobia is nothing but an external projection of your own internal nonacceptance of yourself. The xenophobic dogmatically justify their "beliefs" by arguing or supposing that by being "different" linguistically, ethnically or nationally then surely the "other" is not worthy of similar regard to those of your own kind... never mind the artificiality of the borders that separate us...

You're Zimbabwean, you look different, you even smell different (!), you're not one of "us" and so I hate you. You hate me for being Zimbabwean even before you know me... Xenophobia became a reality for me at Rhodes - "The hub of multiculturalism, where 'leaders learn'". Never before had I felt ashamed to be me... being Zimbabwean is what I was, what I am and at Rhodes I found myself not wanting to be me... but fortunately only for a brief moment in my freshman naivete... In lectures when I introduced myself there would be jeers... How could I possibly be Zimbabwean some asked.. You speak so well, they said. You are classy, some intoned. Who knew that Zimbabweans were classless people with a speech defect? Certainly not me!

A then "close" friend once said to me:"You look South African, why not tell people you're from here? Why identify with the Zimbabweans? You're so much better than them!"I was speechless, so much so that I have not been able to utter more than a "hello" to this person I once called my "friend" - after all, I was Zimbabwean and proud of it to boot... how then would he be able to introduce me to his "better" South Africans? Surely he would suffer the ridicule that he associated with Zimbabweans?

I come from a country with the highest recorded literacy rate in Sub-Saharan Africa. A country where you are greeted with a smile wherever you go. A country where every older woman is your "aunty" and older man your "uncle", where your neighbour is your friend... I come from a country where the wealth extends beyond the resources straight to the people and where the sun shines even as it rains. I come from a country rich with culture and heritage. Don't jeer when I say I am from Zimbabwe.

Don't let your fear of my intelligence manifest into hate, allow that fear to make you desire to better yourself as a person not because I am the "other". Don't look at me and wonder where I'm from and hope I won't say Zimbabwe. Look at me and see a human being, see Ottilia. Look at me and wonder what music I might like, what literature I enjoy, what drives me.. Don't look at me and try to (un)stereotype me. I am NOT your stereotype! I am a proud Zimbabwean, with a character as unique as yours.

I am tired of the snide remarks about Zimbabwe and its people. I seek your empathy, your acceptance (even though I really shouldn't). I want to feel that I am surrounded by leaders and not by xenophobic bigots. I am a Pisces... I am allowed to dream...

On death

For the first time in near to a decade I went to church willingly yesterday... I went to the church that my recently late lecturer frequented until his death... as I sat in my claustrophobic pew I thought to myself how the church was filled with a congregation of strangers... people who did not know my lecturer and some who probably didn't want to... not only that but these strangers bowed their heads and sang sad hymns in "memory" of him. As I sat there, I wondered in whose memory they were singing. I wondered too what the purpose of life is… are we here to await the death knell to chime our name and can we resist when the sound begins to deafen us?

As the preacher ranted on about casting nets and catching fish I couldn’t help but notice what seemed to be a tear upon the cheek of one grey geriatric woman. I thought (for you will notice, I think a lot) for whom this woman could possibly be crying… If not for my late lecturer, then surely it must be for another… indeed the woman could have been crying for herself. For let us not deny that at 80something in Sub-Saharan Africa no day passes without one wondering when the Grim Reaper shall awake from his slumber and do his bidding.

People tend to shy away from talk about death and those of us who do are regarded as being morbidly inclined and often told to shut up or knock on wood… and so we often shut up. It’s not that I don’t fear death. In fact death is the one thing I fear the most… so much so that sometimes I lie awake late at night in my bed (or sit at my desk) and breathe deeply in appreciation of the life that still exists within me. I lie awake because I can’t help but think that I have done so little with my life, and that which I have done has probably left many a heart broken and hopes dashed. Is it selfish of me to want “strangers” to cry in my memory for in some way I wish to touch their lives? Is it selfish of me to want to be remembered for the good that I know I can do and not the bad I know I’ve done?

If you have read this far and are wondering why I don’t just take a sleeping tablet already… worry not, there’s a point to all this. Or maybe not whichever way you wish to look at it. The purpose being, I hope that those who read this may seek to better themselves, to live their lives to the fullest and appreciate that your goodness reigns eternal even in death. And so when I lay my head to rest, I hope once again that I wake up better than yesterday’s Ottilia… for now, I am not yet born.

>>>>>I write this in memory of the late ever illustrious Dr Solomon Nkiwane… for whom I do not mourn, for I feel my salty tears will only tarnish his memory. A man who dedicated his life to serving others and enriching many intellectually and spiritually cannot be mourned. His legacy cannot allow that. <<<<

Sugar and Spice?

How cheesy is my choice of blog-page title? I felt I had to come up with two words that best sum up who I am and the thoughts that ravage my mind... so there was "sugar", for the sweet humanitarian, tree hugger in me and ofcourse "spice", for the blunt, up front, slightly disturbed emo child in me... together they make up ME... though the vast majority of my blogging will seem angry, its mostly because I am an optimist who lives each day wondering if tomorrow will be better...