Soweto rising: 1976 – youth day

Today, South Africa celebrates and recognises the power of a youth willing to stand for what’s right.

Today, my country mourns the lives lost in a struggle children as young as thirteen inherited, a struggle designed by a people, a government and legal system that placed premium and prejudice to the colour of one’s skin.

The message isn’t “by blood and fire, all wrongs can and will be made right”. It isn’t that a victory only exists when there has been a loss; the message is that a system designed to cripple a group of individuals will not survive. The message is that let us be equal in success and privilege as those children were in death, as man and child, mother and daughter were gunned down without pause.

Today, my country raises up the youth, now living or passed, of 1976. When the streets of Soweto were on fire, when classrooms, hallways and playgrounds were silent and an army stood tall and proud, armed with fists, voices and bodies, against a government armed with rifles, gas and the rule of law.

Today we remember their strength, and celebrate our own.

Project: get off your ass

The epiphanies stopped. The moments of clarity that bring with them a new found energy to take on the world, to conquer and thrive (and be awesome) stopped coming.

I’ve had a head filled with ideas and intentions and a heart bursting at the seams with hope, but I’ve been running on empty. It shouldn’t make sense, but unless you’ve been in my shoes, it won’t.

Something changed; somewhere along my journey, during my fall and my tenacious trek through the perilous wild that’s life, I dropped something of mine that was important. I lost a part of myself in the process of building myself up that I didn’t realise I’d stopped building and was simply fighting against the elements and patching up holes.

So I wandered. But I remained stuck. Again, this shouldn’t make sense, but it does because I lived it.

As with every odyssey, a turning point must be had; a moment where what was once lost, what was taken for granted and thought to have disappeared to never return again, must return to the aid of our hero. I’m the hero here, this is my odyssey, and today’s when the tide turns.

I want to document my progress, to use this space to not only share my journey, but to also keep me accountable. I really hope this isn’t yet another one of my “I promise, I’m really going to start working out and looking hot now, something has to change” phases, I’ve had many and none of them have lived past a week (and that’s being generous).

The goal is to be proactive. Sounds easy, I know, but the hard part will be working against a mindset I’ve created, nurtured and reinforced over the years. I have to fight my inner couch potato, rage against the voices that plead for mercy and I need to turn this into a lifestyle instead of a quick-fix.

I’m an insomniac, so this will be the first hurdle I need to overcome, the second is my health (however that’ll go), and the third is taking initiative mentally to be on point and ahead of the masses professionally. This will be no easy feat, but I don’t have much to do anyway so why not if the end result could change my life.

This means establishing a daily routine, having to stick to a timetable, eating right, being physically active (ouch), being mentally active (I mean, I’m almost always in my head so…), being spiritually stronger and most importantly, being fearless. I was once fearless, I went against the grain and did things that now make me envy the young man I once was, so I’m looking forward to seeing this through and having it become the new norm.

Here we go…

I dreamed a dream…

I’m not one to speak on my dreams, out loud for others to hear, to weigh in on and I guess shoot down. I have a very real fear of being laughed at for the things I want to accomplish, because I live in a world that doesn’t favour dreams.

I live in a world where dreams are currency; traded away for comfort and survival.

I live in a world where dreams don’t survive; they don’t see the light of day and are most likely to haunt you than inspire you.

So for the longest time, I remained silent.

I allowed my dreams to stew, bake and bubble and to some extent ferment.

I was afraid.

If nobody knew what I wanted, what I dreamed of, then nobody could recognise my failures. To speak it is to give it power; power to inspire you or power to break you, I wasn’t going to be broken. I’ve stood by and watched family members use dreams to crush someone’s spirit, and I was never going to become one of those people.

So I remained silent.

I allowed my secret dreams to be my own, I didn’t share them with a soul (maybe one or two), but I spoke very little of them.

I remained afraid.

But that’s not entirely true; I revealed them to hundreds, paraded them before gatekeepers and prayed they were enough, that I was enough.

Time and again I was proven right; my dreams were broken, battered, shot down, ignored and thrown aside, but I kept them. Sometimes I feel like they’re a delusion, an insistent poison that won’t stop until I’ve broken.

Sometimes I feel like there’s more to them. For them to have survived so long, to have grown and strengthened can only mean they’re worth something.

So I’ll keep them, I’ll commit them to flesh and have them dance in the light in the hope that someone will favour them and honour them.

I won’t be afraid anymore.

So it wasn’t a sex dungeon…

I can be naïve, the voices in my head would argue “insufferably so”, but I make no attempt at denying it. In my head, I have this idea that the world is a utopia where men respect women, children sing in the streets, sexy anaemic looking vampires will bite you to make you sexy too, and neighbours greet one another merrily without judgment or sass.

This I understand is a little too idealistic, but at the very least I expect to live in a world where a sweet smile isn’t such a tall ask or offer. But the world isn’t at all like that, and therein lies my dilemma and the reason behind my latest adventure.

I was duped into walking into a darkroom. Before imaginations run wild, yes I was aware that I was in a sex shop, no, I didn’t participate in anything sexual, and yes, had I known that the big yellow door led to a very seedy darkroom, I would have clicked my heels three times and made a run for it (there are things that should remain mysteries to me).

I feel like a disclaimer is in order: I’m a damn good friend, judge me not for the decisions I make, but for the fears I entertained. Beside my better judgement, I accompanied a seemingly nervous friend into a sex toy and video shop, because he was in desperate need of lube. He was planning on having a special night with his lady friend, I was there for moral support (great friend).

So we walk into the store and if you’ve ever been in one of those, you’ll understand when I say the penis to vagina ratio is way off. I will admit to being impressed by the variety and lifelike-ness of the toys, but wow, so many penises (and some were even moving on their own, what a trick). I was uncomfortable; I’m no prude, I’ve seen porn, but I don’t actively look for it (I have a very awkward relationship with sexy things, this will need to be unpacked at a later date).

So we walk in, he buys the lube and I’m basically caving in on myself because I’m terrified someone will recognise me or there are cameras somewhere capturing my foray into the dark side. He then turns to me (I should have known something was amiss, he had that look in his eyes) and suggested we look for the “industrial stuff”. I had no idea what on earth he meant (I’m no lube connoisseur), so I shrugged and followed him past the big yellow door.

 

What hit me first was the smell (it smelt like a teenage boy’s bedroom), made worse by the fact that I was basically blind (it was that dark). With my sight temporarily gone, my other senses overcompensated for the shortfall (I heard the lord’s name being called, and I don’t think many were praying…but they sure were on their knees). So I’m being led further into this labyrinth, in the dark, and all I can think of is ‘what kind of lube needs to be stored in the dark?’, like I said, naïve. He finally lets go and just stands there with this look and this grin like he’s just done something amazing and he can’t wait to share it with me.

My vision comes to and the world around us focuses into a sordid nightmare of flesh and black bricked walls. I will admit to panicking a little (I thought I was in a sex dungeon and a dominatrix was going to whip me into submission, I wasn’t mentally prepared for that). His only words were “I need you to loosen up, if that means throwing you in the deep end, then start swimming, buddy” and then he disappeared. He actually vanished, like Houdini (I’m being a little dramatic here, but can you blame me?).

I stood motionless for a few minutes, afraid that any sudden movements would give away my presence and draw out the things I was sure weren’t slow-dancing in the shadows. Minutes went by and I finally did what I always do when thrust into situations that could either make or break me; I put on my “teach me” hat (the one that turns new adventures into lessons into the lives of others) and I began rolling with the punches.

I don’t want to bore you with the sordid details (of which there are many), but I will tell you that I spoke to men and women who opened new avenues of understanding for me. There were widows and widowers who honestly just wanted to forget that outside these walls, they had nobody and there were men in there who sought comfort and connection behind these walls, away from the prying and judgemental eyes of a very crucifying society. We take for granted the power of human contact and touch. Our bodies do a great deal of communicating and the men in there were searching for a way to share their most honest selves with those who would listen.

This was a world below a world.

A space where a woman won’t be held captive by the suffocating ideals society’s placed over her life and body.

Was this my thing? No, not at all, but I understood its purpose. Every single one of those people in there was tired of living a lie. They needed a space for themselves where they didn’t have to pretend. I got it (it would have been great to have not been flashed with a few boobs, butts and penises in the process, but I got it).

After what must have been an hour, my friend returns (he was apparently waiting for me by the reception area and worried I might have been swallowed whole by the scene – there are countless jokes in there, my gift to you). I was mad, rightfully so; but my inner creative revelled in the new information, the opening up of my world and the stories I got to hear.

All in all, it wasn’t as bad as I may have originally led you to believe, but it was pretty wild.

Also, I still don’t know if industrial lube is a thing, but I would understand if it was (the things I saw, may never be unseen and kinda looked like torture a little, I don’t know; you guys do sex in a different way).

Living in a “Junk Status” SA

I’m feeling some type of way about the recent junk status downgrade South Africa’s received. I love this country, I really do and I want to one day raise my kids here, but the way things are looking now, it seems unlikely that having kids at all will be a viable economic option for me.

For those of you in the dark, this is what went down. Mind you, this is an incredibly watered down version of events passed and it’s probably not as politically correct as you’d like as a base for your thesis or essay or whatever, but here goes.

Not too long ago, our country has been flirting with danger as the threat of being downgraded by ratings agencies to junk status, which basically tells the world that South Africa, is a country that is less likely to meet its obligations in terms of credit and paying back its debts. This would have been bad, because it would also mean that international investors would have turned on their heels and not considered our country and economy a viable investment.

Our then finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, worked his magic, along with a number of skilled representatives, and we retained our then BB- rating. So things weren’t amazing, but they weren’t awful.

Fast forward to the first week of April and after a sudden cabinet reshuffle from the President himself, with little to no warning to the ministers who’d been let go and the country and all its stakeholders, ratings agency Fitch saw it necessary to downgrade South Africa’s credit rating to BB+, after S&P had also downgraded South Africa to junk status.

That was a mouthful. Now, what does that mean exactly? It means that the economic world views our country as more of a liability and a high risk investment than a reliable one. This might sound like one of those out of reach “it won’t affect me” things we tend to sweep under the rug and let the higher-ups deal with, but I assure you this has everything to do with you because your life will be that much tougher if you’re the average or below average South African.

Heck, this is going to heavily affected South African businesses and the tier one’s (a little nickname I chose for those at the highest income rung).

International investment will be scarce, meaning investment from conglomerates wanting to build, I don’t know, manufacturing plants in our country will be a hard to come by in this newly changed economic climate. Investment from outside in our companies will trickle to a dismal drizzle as well as investment in important infrastructure will be made more difficult. The effects aren’t only on the international level.

You’ll feel it too. The cost of enterprise is most likely to increase, that means the cost of banking, corporate tax rate as well as the cost of purchasing resources whether imported or from within the country will all rise. This means that employers will feel the tightening of their belts, so much so that employment opportunities will be a hard find, especially for graduates.

It means that the cost of living will increase, the cost of petrol, the cost of food and an entire host of things will increase as well.

Now, why would a country be downgraded to junk status? Some of the reasons are because there is no faith in the country as a paying entity. Think of a country as its own company, the man at the top is the CEO, and in companies as per the King Code, corporate governance is of the utmost importance if its to list in the securities exchange and if investors are to trust its financial statements and entertain the idea of investing in the company. Now if there is a breakdown in corporate governance, there is little faith in the financial statements presented and thus little hope in investors wanting to invest in the company so that it may grow. Due to recent events, the world now feels like there has been a breakdown in the south African governance structures and because of that, they do not have faith in the country’s financials as well as their (our) ability to meet our present or long-term obligations.

In short, this is a big mess and as bleak as things might look, there’s still hope.

The economy could make a turnaround, reliance on South African enterprises to supply and meet demand as well as focussing on entrepreneurship for job creation as well as service delivery could see us pulling a China and creating as well as satisfying our own demands with little international intervention.

To be honest, this topic is so much bigger than what I’ve tried unpacking, but it’s not all grave news. There’s a silver lining in all this…our is, Bonang. We have her, you guys. Also Trevor Noah and Gqom music and lions, they think we all have pet lions anyway, and…yeah…we’re screwed.

Let’s get naked…i did, and i liked it.

So I took the plunge. I couldn’t be more literal than that if I’d wanted to, but yeah, I dropped trou and took to the seas like some new age, psychedelic dream chasing, African hippie and…I kinda liked it.

So there’s some necessary background to be explored here, lest I come off as some eccentric liberal who makes a habit of taking his clothes off in public for the sake of taking his clothes off in public. There’s truth in that, anyway… I am a bit of a liberal. Go on, hate me you precious fossils you.

So what had happened was, I was in my room (where most of my more “Ingenious” plans are conceived) and where I normally have a very reliable “Stop nonsense” reflex that puts a halt on the more…insane/ridiculous/illegal ideas, this time around a part of me I’d long ago thought successfully smothered, tied up and left for the coyotes, decided to fight through the less than boy scout grade bindings and push the big red button.

We all know what button I’m talking about; the button that sees you jumping out of moving planes, swimming with man eating fish and hooking up with weird strangers from the net. Yes, that button.

So the button had been pushed, and what had been a silently waning wonder, blossomed into something of an obsession.

I wanted to get naked. Not just naked, I wanted to do it in public.

The idea of jail wasn’t a hit, so I thought a less illegal, but still very illegal (I should look into that) way to go about my new obsession would be to skinny dip.

I could have very easily done it in my backyard and been done with it, but no, I wanted to be reckless with it. Now I think it’s best to make it known that I’m in no way a creep. Sure, I have creepy tendencies, but my goal was never to fifty shades of gray it in a public pool with toddlers in tiaras and all things inflatable in sight, no.

The plan was to go to the beach on a relatively warm day, find a safe-ish spot away from prying eyes and go about my pseudo-nudist ways for a hot second before I get my fill without causing a scene and going to jail. Avoiding jail was where the bar had been set; I don’t see myself surviving the slammer.

Why do it, you ask? I needed this, not this in particular, but something as radical and as exciting as this to pull me from within the depths of whatever funk I’ve crawled into and to cure this claustrophobia I’ve steadily developed.

So, the plan had been set, the day chosen, and I was off.

I had fifteen minutes to talk myself out of it. I had fifteen minutes to reason with myself; my moral compass had one job and that was to put an end to this insanity, but as crazy as I was and am, I’m just as stubborn.

Fifteen minutes later, I was there. Not a soul in sight, it was me, the golden shoreline, the gentle giant before me and the clearest sky above head. I hadn’t taken a stitch of clothing off and I’d already begun feeling vulnerable. It was on some level knowing what I was about to do, also, it was that I was alone. I had no partner in crime, no lookout, no getaway driver, just me and this silly, silly idea.

But I was going to do it. Momma never raised no quitter.

I wish I could tell you that I felt liberated with each article of clothing I slowly slid off my person, I wish I could tell you how good the soft heat from the autumn sun felt and how sexy it made me feel, but none of that sensual, Baywatch stuff happened. I tore those clothes off me like they were on fire, trying as best I could to not think about it too much, before I gunned it towards the ocean and literally crashed against a settling wave.

I felt naked; I was literally naked, in public, with no clothes on. I mean I get that’s how being naked works, but I was in public for crying out loud. The shock of it all was almost suffocating.

My first thought? “What have I done?” Regret, absolute regret poured out of me, weeping with every jagged breath while my body acclimated to the ocean water temperature. Also fear, lots of it. I was afraid someone would wander to where my clothes were, figure the situation out and out of spite they’d run off with my clothes and I’d be stranded, naked, in the ocean. Then I was afraid that the very many things that lived in the ocean would wander as well, too close to the bits that could be nibbled…

After the shock and regret and fear, I guess I could say that a resilient calm took hold of me. It was kind of unexpected. The knowledge that it was okay, that I was somehow safe and free and stupid but incredibly at one with everything around me swallowed me whole. I can’t explain it without saying that it felt like a colour I hadn’t seen or experienced before but one I was familiar with and one that felt right.

Don’t worry, I’ve not been converted, I don’t plan on being a nudist anytime soon, but I found a new appreciation for the sheer bravery of letting it all go and allowing your body to be at one with the things that really matter around you; the tangible.

Five minutes later, a very long five minutes might I add, I dried off, put my clothes back on and stayed behind to stare out into the ocean for a good hour with a new admiration for the world and its many wonders.

This wasn’t some Avatar type of connectedness, but I felt real for the first time in a very long time. I both mattered and didn’t matter and through it all I felt in control. I made the decision to take my clothes off, I made the decision to go into the ocean and I was in control through the whole thing.

Some will call me crazy, and rightfully so, I don’t think this is for everyone, but it was certainly a great way to stumble upon a sacred philosophy I’m coming to terms with more every day; you may not be where you want to be, but you are where you are meant to be.

“It’s not your love i fear, it’s you” – A.C.S

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Hello, my name is Andile Cyprian Shabangu, and I’m afraid of relationships.

Maybe I should explain myself before the very few family members who read this thing (hey guys, thank you for the support) take this as some rage against marriage and a foolish ploy to become one of those forever bachelors. I don’t think I have the constitution to juggle that many intimacy partners, nor do I think I have the energy to try and look that good all the way into my fifties. At some stage, I’m going to want to let go and let gravity perform its voodoo.

What I meant by ‘I’m afraid of relationships’ is that…I’m afraid of getting into a relationship.

I feel like I should have opened up with a disclaimer of some sort, like “WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS IN NO WAY THE PRODUCT OF AN EMOTIONALLY HUNGUP MAN. WITH NO KIDS. AND A CAT”. Maybe that would have eased tensions.

But I digress. The point of this is to share with you fears that I honestly believe are shared between myself and millions of people around the world.

I’m not crazy. I have a legitimate fear of entering a romantic relationship because on a basic level, I don’t think I can trust another human being with my wellbeing. Particularly, with my heart.

Cue the violins, sure, but it’s not uncommon. Some people will call it commitment phobia; where someone has relationship anxiety that presents itself as commitment issues.

This is not me. These are people who have a difficult time staying within a long-term relationship even though they long for them.

My fear is somewhat similar, but entirely different because on some level, I am afraid of entering a relationship with a commitment-phobe.

For context, I need you to know that I have never been in a relationship with anyone. Sure, at some stage I assumed I was in one, but it turned out that wasn’t the case. I’ve either mentioned this before or it’s a tale for a different moment. But in my years, however short they may have been, as an adult, my fears grew.

I’m afraid of a litany of things: I’m afraid of being cheated on because I’ve seen what it does to someone’s spirit and I don’t know if I’m strong enough to not turn ugly because of that. I’m afraid of being made a fool of, of being used and abused, of being with someone who is emotionally unavailable and ultimately being hurt.

I’m a bleeding heart, so if I’m wounded, I.AM.WOUNDED!

Guys I watch ‘Cheaters’, I see how people treat their “lovers/partners/spouses” out here and I’d be a fool to think that I would be exempt from something like that. I get it, it’s unhealthy to think this way, but when has fear ever been healthy? You can’t guarantee that the first relationship you’ll find yourself in will be your last and you’ll live happily ever after. I know all of this, but it does nothing to assuage my fears. I KNOW that the road’s long and winding, but I can handle it if I feel like the person I’m with is right here with and for me.

Like I said at the very beginning, I am not alone. There are people out there who are afraid of being in a relationship because they’re afraid of no longer being single, people are afraid that love doesn’t work, afraid of letting people get to know them and every manner of reason, but the point is this is a legitimate fear and like all fears, it can be cured. Or at least managed.

There are people out there, cretins of the lowest order, who will vie for your body. You might find yourself in their grasp, this is okay, this is temporary, this will pass. This I know. You shouldn’t allow that experience, or fear of such experience stop you from putting yourself out there and experience one of the miracles of life…LOVE. I know I should heed my own advice, but I am, or I’m trying to. I will.

My intellectual-self wrestles with the idea of “The One”, but my romantic-self lavishes in the hopes of there being someone designed for me and only me.

I know what needs to be done, I know which thoughts to exorcise and which fears to conquer and I know that if I fall I’m allowed to be upset, but I need to get back up again and hope for the best. Because that’s what we all do at the end of the day; we hope for the best.

So I might find someone tomorrow, it might turn ugly, we might end up on Jerry Springer or on an episode of cops or Cheaters. Either way, I know it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just one less frog to kiss.