Christina Engela's picture

Sleeper Awake!

Sometimes it feels like you are the only one who sees the world for what it is, while it seems that all those around you are blissfully unaware - not knowing and not caring to know things that could make a difference in solving problems or bringing about changes necessary to improve things. One of the catch phrases I remember from the original Dune movie in 1984 was "sleeper awake!" and it describes exactly how I feel today.


Despite appearances presented to the outside world, South Africa - and Africa - is a human rights mess, and especially so on the front of Pink rights.

Yes, there are massive shortcomings and omissions and failures on the part of Government to act on domestic issues - but while SA's government may not have de facto "obligations" to advance Pink human rights around the world or in Africa, our government has been active in efforts to assist and buddy up to governments known to be breaking down the human rights of the Pink community in those countries - and complicit in causing the downfall of human rights by it's continued failure to act.

What should we as the Pink Community do? Sit on the sidelines and let them continue to do so unhindered? Or should we be pressuring the SA government to live up to its obligations to uphold the SA Constitution both locally and internationally?

Too often LGBTI rights and interests are sidelines on thinly veiled excuses of diplomacy while all too visibly other more conventional interests are tackled head on, and with full media coverage. Of course, defending gay or trans rights simply isn't considered "moral" enough for our government - while it is in apparent agreement with the notion that homosexuality and transgender is "un-African" and not deserving of their attention.
Christina Engela's picture

City Of Apples, Land Of Penguins

Where do I live?
I live in South Africa, a country which has one of the most advanced Constitutions on the planet, in terms of human rights and equality for people like me. It's a country full of contradictions, as a careful analysis will show. For me, as a transgender woman who doesn't care much about the gender of my prospective partners, it's my home, but also a place that occasionally makes me feel unwelcome enough to want to leave.
It's a place that on the one hand claims to protect my rights and dignity, while on the other, there are groups influencing government to the point where I'm not certain how much longer that will be the case. Some of these folks are now standing so close to the table holding our Constitution, that it seems, at any moment, they could just reach out and rip the vital pages right out of it. The POI and "porn" Bills are just two examples of this obscene attack on South African democracy, the rampant corruption and self-enrichment are just another.
Contradiction? What am I referring to? Hmm. Right.
South Africa is one of the biggest exporters of copper on the continent, in blatant and stubborn defiance of the minor detail that it has no natural sources of the metal, and no copper mines. None. Coincidentally, it is also one of the few countries where people occasionally arrive home to find that all their water pipes and metal fixtures have mysteriously disappeared. Reports that sales of PVC conduit have also increased dramatically in recent years, are often described as an urban myth.
Christina Engela's picture


POI is getting a white-wash from government, and from figures who think it is a good idea to censor the free Press. Some say it will redress the wrongs under the still existing (yet hardly enforced) Apartheid-era secrecy law. (Of course they are hoping that by using the "A-word" the lemmings will decide in favor of the POI without bothering to think further than - "oh it must be better then".) Instead of just scrapping it, or using the original draft replacement law from three years ago, which was in line with democratic values - they want to replace it with an "upgrade", a V2.0 - no doubt soon to be followed by an "Apartheid v2.0". The working title for this little exercise in retribution could be something on the lines of "the Formerly Oppressed Strike Back", and we all have a pretty good idea of who the main characters will be, and how it will play out. After all, we've seen it all before - just across the border in what used to be a fairly prosperous neighboring country.

While the in-fighting between the different splinter-groups within the "Tripartite Alliance" and the ANC itself can be very amusing at times, mostly it is worrying and damaging to our young and currently faltering democracy. Most especially of concern are the shenanigans of the ANCYL leader, who is single-handedly demonstrating to us just how close we are to a complete failure of that democracy. If he isn't criticizing the Constitution or democratic values, or his own superiors in the ruling party, or its alliance partners, or the country's President - then he appears to be setting himself up to replace them. And goodness knows, nobody in the ANC ever seems to have the balls big enough to give that disruptive little communist the WWF smack-down he seems to be cruising for. No other political party in the world, no matter how liberal, would put up with this level of international embarrassment on account of a mere YOUTH league representative and employee. But yet, they do - and every day Kiddie Amin seems to be increasingly a law unto himself, egged on by his masses of ignorant and uneducated supporters with one foot still in revolutionary thinking.

Every day we South Africans have grown used to watching the news to see this buffoon open his mouth to change feet at our expense.

Give people like this enough time and enough room to maneuver and pretty soon they will be making official statements about how "un-African" certain diverse groups are, how "threatening" and how "immoral" - while of course using ideologies foreign to Africa as a means to decide what "un-African" means.
Christina Engela's picture

Just Keep Swimming

These days I find myself referring to the little blue fish in that adorable movie "Finding Nemo", the one that kept on saying "just keep swimming". And no matter what, no matter how bad things got in the movie, that was her philosophy, and she stuck to it - "just keep swimming". I can't help but draw comparisons between circumstances and the wisdom and stoicism of that little fish - or the writer for that matter. No matter what happens next, no matter how much people surprise - or shock, or disappoint me.

Since when did we Pink folks in South Africa start looking down on and judging other people by their inborn characteristics? When did we decide we were too good to socialize with or compete with others? Where did this smarmy superior attitude and this mentality of "if we can't win, then it must be rigged" come from? When did we decide that gay people are equal to straight people, but some gay people are more equal than others?

It's not just a Pink thing or a gay thing, it seems - but a South African thing. We see it every time the Boks, Proteas or Bafana lose on the playing field, even if it was a fantastic match like last Saturday's rugby battle - with just one point difference in the score. "Ah, they're rubbish!" The "die-hard" SA fans say in disgust, as they take off their team paraphernalia and pretend they were out drinking with their mates instead of watching the game. I can see the same tendency with politics and the folks leaving the country because "their team lost" or "doesn't stand a chance".

I think I've discovered the answer to the problem.... us. The problem is us activists. We're too far ahead of society in SA - many foreigners tell me SA is 20 years behind in terms of societal mindset. It's all our fault for trying to accelerate a process of unity between two groups that never used to socialize before - let alone want to share a stage or a dance floor. I think as activists, we're more-or-less on a mental and social par with US activists, while most of our own community is still stuck on issues of race, having just recently struggled over the language divide between English and Afrikaans... And the human rights activists...we're the thinkers and the do-ers, and we're being ham-strung by having to carry - no, drag - much of our community along behind us at our pace instead of at the slow, plodding pace of their retro-grade thinking.
Christina Engela's picture

Blah, Blah, Click, Click

I don't think laws in South Africa are formulated by the SA people anymore - these days laws just break the news when they are about to be passed by parliament - like the POI and Media Tribunal - and as they clearly demonstrate, these are one-sided and extremely partisan, working against democracy. This is not transparency, this is not "due process". We need more "Glasnost" in South Africa!

Everywhere, I hear people complaining about politicians and politics, people whining that "The elected should remember how they got elected - and every decision they take should be given the litmus test "Is this good for the people?". When they remember that being elected is an expression of trust by the people and not a ticket to entitlement we might get somewhere."

Of course, as this person (a good friend of mine from High School days) says - "If anyone looks up the dictionary definition of democracy they might be in for a shock."

Chambers dictionary defines democracy as - "a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively, and is administered by them or by officers appointed by them; the common people; a state of society characterized by recognition of equality of rights and privileges for all people; political, social or legal equality."

And as he pointed out: "Now, where exactly does it say "majority rule"? Democracy means that every person has an equal voice - and equal responsibility."

Thank you Morne' - *applause* - If everyone thought like that (in particular the last sentence), I would have no problem getting volunteers to help in canvassing or advocacy. Clearly, not everyone thinks the same way, or even thinks at all. We live in a culture of placing blame, passing the buck and scapegoating. But my friend's observations did not end there, however.
Christina Engela's picture

Ignorance As A World-view

South Africa is a beautiful country with all sorts of worthwhile natural resources and stunning, sweeping vistas and other interesting stuff that usually makes it onto the back cover of some tourism magazine you might flip through while sitting on the bog - or, as introductions on websites or Facebook groups for conservative political parties which try to sound interesting and aspire to make other people's business, theirs.

Unlike those people, who seem overly concerned about whether other people's kids are taught facts about evolution in schools instead of fantasy and philosophy involving their invisible friends - I don't care to write about how pretty the landscape is, or whether or not the skyline looks like sunset after a bomb went off.

Unlike people who get their knickers in a knot over whether sex education includes "safer sex" instead of "abstinence only" practices (or non-practices, as the case may be) or educates the gay and trans kids as well, without making anyone out to be some kind of threat to religion, the state or "the family" - I really couldn't give a toss what they believe.

Unlike people who define love and marriage by their reproductive potential alone, and how many more children they can bring into the world (because we know the world needs more children, unless they happen to be different) - I certainly don't care about what kind of hardware people who love each other enough to tie the knot are packing down below - or what Jan and Janine Conservative do in the privacy of their own relationships.
Christina Engela's picture

Portent Pending


I am not qualified to say what God wants - or what God says - and I don't believe anybody else is either. In fact, all I know is what I feel and what I want and what I need - that is what it is to be human and mortal - and fallible. Some people would do well to realize this and put down their sharpened books, get off their pedestals and stop waving their fingers down at us, as though they are somehow special and have a hot line to God.

There is a disturbing trend developing in parts of the modern world, to connect good morals (called "morality") and Christianity, as if people who are not fundamentalist Christians are somehow automatically exempted from being people of good moral character. Feminists, even when Christian, are described as "backsliding" or "misled" simply because they believe, somewhat controversially - that women are equal to their male counterparts - and thus disagree with the Patriarchy, which has appointed itself, somewhat arrogantly and presumptuously, as a middle-man between humanity and the divine.

I still cannot quite understand what makes some people think that their faith or even their fanatical belief in a religion or deity makes some people "better" or more "worthy" than others, qualifies them to sit in judgment of others, and somehow elevates their own personal view of the world - or "morality" above that of the rest of us mere mortals. The fact that this unenlightened sectarian point of view seems to be steadily creeping into South Africa's young democratic government however, while undeniable - is frightening.
Christina Engela's picture

Angus-iety Attack

Did you see the front page of Rapport yesterday? And pg 4,5 and 16, with pictures too - with his "real men" and patriarchy story? Is that news? Honestly! Is the "Rapport" a newspaper or a church newsletter? It might as well be.

According to this article, between 200,000 and 300,000 males attended Angus Buchan's "mighty men" conference. Granted, this is less than the expected 400,000... but I wonder, can there really be so many weak, spineless, directionless lemmings in South Africa? Apparently so. Look at the accompanying photographs, of grown men - the vaunted "real men" of Buchan's liturgy, crying because they have been such terrible men by "allowing" their women to pursue careers and lives of their own, fallen on their knees and bowing to their god in the leather hat, the prophetic potato-planter and holy hash-brown harvester.

According to him, men who are not "real men" ("real men" being bullies who "wear leather belts" and abuse women, preaching their return to domestic bliss and incarceration in the kitchen - and the restoration of the Patriarchy) are "wimps" and "sissies" - and that includes by implication gay men, bi men and mtf transsexuals. It is insulting and offensive - no matter which way you look at it. In fact, it is beneath enlightened and modern civilization to contemplate. But what is more offensive, is that a national newspaper pays such close positive attention to this demagogue and provides a full front-page spread every time this fruitloop changes his hair style.

According to the article, female journalists were also refused entry into the venue. Very inclusive indeed. If that isn't an indication of the state of fundamentalist institutions and churches these days (if not their mentality), it certainly is a sign of the times.
Christina Engela's picture

2010 Sucker World Cup

How about this World Cup Soccer, hey?  What a prestigious event for our country! Doesn't it make you feel proud?  All the jobs it creates, hiring all those extra under-qualified people to do the jobs of people who already have jobs and aren't doing them?

I mean, suddenly there are people all over the country fixing potholes and rebuilding our road network and being very industrious. Funny, I wonder what they have been doing the past ten years or so, while the roads were quietly allowed to deteriorate to this point. Isn't it great to have an excuse to either reallocate funds to spend on boring necessities such as decent road surfaces instead of political parties? I don't mean parliamentary functions either, but actual parties, like with booze. Or fancy cars for MP's which cost in excess of a million Rand?

All those thousands of tourists will soon be flocking to South Africa to see their favorite teams, to sample South African cultures, and who will probably experience hijackings and crime - and the paragon of SA sport - the vuvuzela, first hand. The recent reports of the company selling "stab-proof vests" to tourists and foot ball teams had me in stitches - sorry, bad pun. But yeah, it was quite funny. And what was even funnier was the SA Governments outrage at the idea, as if South Africa has a crime problem! It reminded me of Mbeki's denial a few years ago, when he asked "what crime problem?" - and a month later his official residence was stripped of all its security systems by burglars. Hehehe. Yeah. Almost as funny as the guy who wants to sell earplugs for twice the price of a vuvuzela - now that's the spirit or entrepreneurship.
Christina Engela's picture

The South African Dream


South Africa is full of potential and possibility and hope. All we need to do is grasp it and realize it. Sitting on the sidelines will let others achieve their own corrupt desires unopposed - and make our nightmares come true.

It is so easy to be caught up in the negativity that says South Africa is a dangerous place, that it is a haven for crime and gangsterism and corrupt government officials and conniving self-interested politicians, a place where dreams suffocate and joining the rat race to greener pastures elsewhere is the solution.

It is so easy to overlook the obvious, that we are now 20 years post-Apartheid, we have weathered the worst of it, that despite the doomsayers and gloom merchants, people of all races, cultures and religions, genders and sexual orientations are living together side by side in relative harmony. People are working together, sharing office space and even sharing jokes and sorrows together in ways we never dreamed possible two decades ago.

This is my dream, the South African dream, an equal opportunity society, where we all can make our dreams come true.

.....Well, not quite yet.
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