Giving history The Finger

2014-01-21 05:48

Last week my friends and I went for a walk in Newlands forest. We stopped at Rhodes memorial for a rest. I saw a few tourists taking photos at the memorial and it reminded me of when I took photos at the same spot when I was a child.

Rhodes memorial is beautiful and has such a brilliant panoramic view that it is too easy to forget, unless you didn’t know before, what the history of this terrible man was.

The next time you marvel at something, take care that you know what it stands for.

One example is the legacy he was trying to establish was that he saw Africa as his own triumph. It’s no secret that he wanted the Cape to Cairo railway, but did you know that Rhodes Memorial is based on his vision of empire in which he conflates the Egyptian spinxes (the lions) with the Roman pillared building, with him at the centre of it all overlooking his triumph. Excuse me while I scream an obscenity that begins with “F” coupled with the word “that”. I’m actually ok with the monument being there, but the fact that I never knew the history of it, and was not taught it either upsets me.

This is the legacy of a man who tried to colonise all of Africa, and we still have his name associated with Mandela, in a scholarship no less.

Just like colonisation and subservience has been squashed into the psyches of many a people, so can the spirit of “ungovernability” be encouraged in these same people.

A friend who is also a drag queen, told me how it’s so important to choose when to be political and when to dress up. He found it hard to walk the line between being taken seriously, being him (and consequently herself) and when to use drag as a strategic move (he was involved in politics). My advice was the same that I am giving here - be aware of your surroundings, know who you’re dealing with and whatever you do, do it with that middle finger firmly extended (albeit figuratively so)

We tend to forget that we are borne from generations of ungovernability, and that that is what makes us who we are. Sitting around and waiting for a hand out? Give that attitude the finger and make your own way.


An interesting article came along this week decrying the DWYL way of seeking employment. It stands for Do What You Love. Bottom line is, we all want to do what we love for a living, but pushing that method denigrates everyone else who simply cannot afford to.

You are probably as dissatisfied with the way things are in life, and this country, and may want to burn things down in anger. It’s a lovely image if we were in a movie, but the last time I checked, we are not. This is where your middle finger comes in.

Whenever you are unhappy with something, you have the option to lie down and take it, or you can extend that longest of digits, raise your arm and flaunt it for all and sundry to see.

And in the interest of never forgetting, let’s remember that this, of course, did not pay off for that jogger who flipped the president’s cavalcade in 2010 and got arrested for it.  So much for freedom of expression. Good on him for doing that, even though he was punished for it, but like the mottos of old went, “They can’t arrest us all”.

How are you going to raise your middle finger? How are we going to tell the world that we’ve had enough when things go down the toilet?

Question everything. When we slip into complacency is when we forget what happened and why we got here in the first place (whatever your situation might be).

When people get angry about street and institution name changes, they tend to forget the way in which their privilege blinds them from the deeply embedded subjugation present in the lives of many people. It’s hard to be indignant about something when you have never experienced it.

There are still schools in this country named after colonisers and racists (essentially the same thing) and it makes me wonder about who exactly is in charge. I remember learning the name of the airport that is now known as Cape Town International was once DF Malan. Clearly those in charge of keeping schools with these names have a vested interest in maintaining a status quo that does not include those of a subversive nature.

What should we say to those who insist on keeping the legacy alive? There’s a lot we could say, but better yet, let me show you.

Before we left, we let ol’ Rhodes know what we thought of him.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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