Volume 7 Issue 2
The Cape Town
Globalist U C Tâ€™s st udent int er nat ional af fairs mag a z i n e
Songs of Freedom 1
The Cape Town Globalist
18% do not have proper
20% do not have proper
95% do not have stocked
92% do not have
access to electricity
access to water
90% do not have stocked computer centres
17% do not have
Editor-in-Chief Anneke Rautenbach Deputy Editor Amy Thornton Content Editors Chris Clark Chantal d’Offay Liam Kruger Olivia Walton Layout Editor Nic Botha Deputy Layout Editor Daniel Rautenbach CTG President Carissa Cupido Pictures Editor Cristina Stefan
Songs of Freedom
Tidbits you may have missed
Get up! Stand up!
Q&A with Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch
Sounds of the Arab Spring
Labour broking in SA
Finance Kennedy Kitheka Heike Victor
Contributors Rob Attwell Gregory Bakker Jacob Claassens Chris Clark Ashleigh Furlong Dela Gwala Amber Kriel Sofia Monteiro Michelle October Jess Richards Luyolo Sibikwe Gareth Smit Fergus Turner Lori-Rae van Laren Xavier van der Zandt Olivia Walton Joseph Weinberg Cover: James Ballance
Mali all shaken up
Are we to see a democratic Burma?
SA’s unsavoury business with Iran
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Capoeira then and now
The search for a new Afrikaner identity
Spectres of Tupac
Tupac’s legacy resurfaces in Africa
Marketing Chantel Clark
The Cape Town Globalist is published four times a year by students at the University of Cape Town. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Cape Town Globalist, the publication sponsors, the University of Cape Town, or Global21. To contact the CTG, email email@example.com
Paradox for the people
A very long engagement Labour broking in South Africa
Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?
The many faces of Mitt - US elections 2012
Coup, crisis, conflict A Nobel cause Dirty laundering in public
Global21 Contributions from the yale Globalist and south australian Globalist
Art, Science and Philosophy 27
Paint by numbers
Let us compare mythologies
Synesthesia will blow your mind Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan More than just a catchy song title?
Curtain Call 30
Can protest music change the world? Xavier van der Zandt asks boldly
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elcome to our special edition on protest music.
My fantasy for this editorial was that a hologram of Bob Marley would automatically start playing as soon as you open onto this page. He cocks his head and a dreadlock comes loose from behind his ear. His voice is gentle—strained, in good way, so as to suggest a bottomless pit of wisdom, suffering and an awareness of the vulnerability of his dying body (he still thinks he’s human): ‘Won’t you help to sing These songs of freedom? ‘Cause all I ever have Redemption songs.’ You may sing along – I know you probably know the words.
Image by James Honnibol
‘Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, None but ourselves can free our mind’ Wait, what? Is the robust, direct and powerful rhetoric of Pan-Africanist orator Marcus Garvey, on whose speech the song is based, piercing through the poignant acoustics there? It hits like a blow to the stomach. In it we can trace Garvey, we can trace Biko, we can trace Ngugi and Fanon and Marx. Through a few suggestive lines a canon of leftist and radical ideology descends upon us—softly, soothingly—in the voice of a single man and his guitar. A lullaby of liberation. So we see how it is that the ideas of some of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century trickle down into the language of politics and journalism, and finally bubble out through the speakers of kitchen radios all over of the world. We know that the power of music lies in its capacity for repetition, for harmony in dissonance, and in its appeal to a sense of rhythm, to the body. The power, then, of protest music is its ability to connect ideas such as Garvey’s — usually reserved exclusively for the mind—to the body: through the tapping of a foot and the vibrato of a voice. And it is contagious: many feet, many voices. And a dance is not so different from a march. Music engages the body, drawing attention to our physical strength and through it reminding us of our emotional strength. The power of the noise we can make together shows us our solidarity. But music can also abuse language: it simplifies ideas, squeezing them into easily dispensable tropes that might fit the rhyme or the rhythm—or the regime—better. It is then that we should be careful of whipping out a ‘De la Rey’ or a ‘shoot the Boer’ too cavalierly. Words can act as guns or pangas. Such caution may seem quite ridiculous in a world saturated by Sony and Simon Cowell. But take a moment to consider that there are parts of the world where music is still acting to bring down regimes. In places like Egypt and Syria, hip hop has been reinvented to such an extent that Al Jazeera has declared places like Tunis and Cairo the new Oakland, Compton or Brooklyn (Get up! Stand up!, p. 22). Tahrir Square was filled with the sound of protest songs. Speaking of hip hop, has anyone seen Tupac recently? He was last seen at Coachella 2012 next to Snoop Dogg—but he has also been the poster boy for unspeakable violence committed by child soldiers in Sierra Leone (sorry Kony). (Spectres of Tupac, p. 26) In a country such as ours, the liberation struggle has largely turned into one of identity-politics. Thus Afrikaners use music (and the power of their own language) to carve out a rather confused niche for themselves in post-Apartheid South Africa. (Rof Taal, p. 24). And in a special photo essay feature on Capoeira, we explore how this martial art, so closely tied to music, dancing and singing, became a powerful instrument for slaves in Brazil – and how it has flourished as an art form worldwide. We hope this edition will make you want to move to the groove and drive around the block an extra time to finish the song. Look out for YouTube clips and tracks on our website (www.ctglobalist.com) and our Facebook page (‘Cape Town Globalist’). A big thank you to the inspirational Globalist team, the publications grant from UCT and the Centre for Film and Media Studies, especially Professor Ian Glenn, for making this edition possible. Enjoy.
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News bites Failure to launch
North Korea attempted and then publicly failed to launch a rocket into orbit. The regime was celebrating the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founder. It had invited international press to document the event and is no doubt regretting its overconfidence. The rocket flew for a short while before disintegrating into the sea. The West views the launch as flouting the ban on testing long-range missile technology and America is reconsidering a food aid deal. In an unprecedented show of openness, Pyongyang’s admitted the debacle to its people, in contrast to its silence in the wake of a similar failure in 2009. Cynics suggest the regime had no option: its people would find out anyway through news leaks from China.
A picture is worth a billion dollars
Facebook announced on April 9th that is buying Instagram for a billion US dollars. Instagram, a mobile-phone network for photosharing, has over 27 million users after just eighteen months of existence. Numbers are set to increase now Facebook is on board. In what may be a strategic move, Facebook will pay more than double what the company had been valued at. Photo-sharing is one of Facebook’s most used features and Instagram’s more elegant and interactive platform may have posed a threat. Facebook’s offer was sure to ward off competition. 6
digits of d
Ceasefire no more Kofi Annan’s envoy to Syria secured a ceasefire meant to begin on April 10th. The UN pledged $100 million to entice fighters for Assad to defect and the US has provided communications equipment for the rebels. The Assad regime also agreed to welcome UN observers into Syria, which has been torn apart by a conflict of thirteen months, killed an estimated 9000 people and displaced upwards of 40 000 into neighbouring countries. The ceasefire did not last long: activists reported that on April 26th up to 70 people were killed in Hama. State media claims the number was sixteen. Whichever is closer to the truth, the ceasefire has not been upheld.
number-one singles John Lennon had on the US Hot 100 chart
copies of Tupac Shakur’s album, All Eyez On Me (1996), sold in less than 2 months in the US alone.
bullets killed Tupac Shakur
the number TIME magazine ranked M.I.A.’s music video ‘Born Free’ in the ‘100 Most Controversial Music Videos of All Time’
Love machines Houston, we have retired The Space Shuttle Discovery was retired on April 18th after a 39-year-long career. Discovery first flew into space in 1984 to deploy communications satellites. Highlights of its career include launching the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, and the Ulysses spacecraft to investigate the polar regions of the sun in 1991. The spacecraft was named after a ship captained by James Cook, on the voyage in which he discovered the Hawaiian Islands, and one sailed by Henry Hudson, both of which were called Discovery. Discovery the space shuttle will be— impressively—flown piggy-back on the back of a Boeing 747, and then live out its days at the Smithsonian Museum.
Coca-Cola has built a vending machine that dispenses a Coke when you give it a hug. The machine, set up at the National University of Singapore, has the words ‘Hug Me’ emblazoned across it in the signature Coca-Cola font. The idea is part of Coke’s ‘Open Happiness’ marketing campaign, and is meant to make people associate love and happiness with Coke. So far the innovative machine has been a success. Students at the university had lots of fun giving love to a giant inanimate object, so much so that Coca-Cola is planning to release some of these insecure vending machines in the USA.
the age at which Bob Marley died
500 000 13
hippies attended the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969
died in the 1982 massacre in Northern Ireland which inspired U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday
Spaniards were outraged to discover that King Juan Carlos went on an expensive hunting expedition to Botswana. His country is facing an economic crisis and 23% of Spaniards are unemployed. The king fell and broke a hip on the trip, and was flown home for a hip replacement. Instead of sympathy, he received anger, resentment and people standing outside the hospital with a photo of him next to a dead elephant. The irony of a monarch who is the honorary head of the Spanish World Wildlife Fund going elephant hunting in Botswana was not lost on the Spanish people. A petition of over 85 000 is calling for his resignation from the WWF.
the year Nigerian musician Fela Kuti discovered the Black Power movement in the USA
Cyber insecurity Worm in the Apple
Hot on the heels of SOPA, PIPA and ACTA, another American bill is targeting internet freedoms. CISPA—the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act—achieves much that SOPA would have, though supporters are trying to distinguish the two. CISPA endows the US government with extended powers to protect copyright information and prevent hacking. However, there are few limitations on what the government would be able to do. Avaaz.org is concerned about private information stored online with banks and companies like Facebook and Google. CISPA would make it possible for such information to be shared with the government. There has been global resistance to the bill, and many hope it will go the way of SOPA and PIPA. To the bin!
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Apple’s famed invincibility against viruses, worms and malware has been knocked by a malware called Flashback. By masquerading as Adobe Flash Installer, or by automatically installing when users opened certain (unknown) web pages, it exploits a weakness in the Java script used in the Mac operating system 10.6 ‘Snow Leopard’. (The most recent system, 10.7 ‘Lion’, and mobile devices are safe because they do not use Java.) Once in, Flashback can extract passwords and other information from Safari. Oracle patched the bug two months ago, but Apple uses its own version of Java and remained vulnerable, only releasing a removal tool on April 14th. At its height about 600 000 Mac users were affected by Flashback. Once you go Mac you never go back… Or do you?
Pakistani plane crash
On the 20th April, a Bhoja Air Boeing carrying 127 people crashed near Islamabad, leaving no survivors. The cause was identified as an explosion of the fuel tanks in mid air , raising suspicions about the air-worthiness of Bhoja Air in general. Bhoja Air has recently resumed operations after an eleven year break due to financial difficulties. The head of the company has since been blocked from leaving the country as a criminal investigation is launched. Operators from Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto international airport said that they received an emergency call from the pilot moments before the accident, saying that he could see the tops of houses but not the runway. The plane crashed nearby to the airport.
Bin Laden documents released
Documents seized from Bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad have recently been published online by the research wing of the US military academy in West Point. Seventeen documents were selected from a cache of more than 6000, and reveal much about the emotional state of the al-Qaeda leader during the last years of his life. The papers, including letters from other al-Qaeda members express frustration at Iran’s lack of co-operation as well as suspicion towards Pakistan’s intelligence services. In a letter from 2010, Bin Laden expressed concern that Muslims were losing faith in the idea of jihad, and spoke of the beginning of a new era during which mistakes from the past will be corrected.
anneke rautenbach, Amy thornton & olivia walton
Photographs courtesy of wikimedia commons
Sofia Monteiro talks to Human Rights Watch’s emergencies director Peter Bouckaert about the final days of Gaddafi’s regime, and the first days of the new Libya.
From your experience, and with hindsight, what started the revolution in Libya?
the old dictators have been overthrown, and that the new rulers will care more about women’s rights. Because some of them are very conservative Islamic elements, who feel that the woman’s place should be in the home […] You have a choice between a dictatorship that imposes its vision of society or democracy where the majority gets to uphold its vision of society. And we cannot return to dictatorship, so we have to work within a democratic system to try to protect the rights of women and minorities within these countries.
We have a general situation in the Middle East where you have a population which is very young, the majority of them in their twenties and thirties. What is unique about Libya is many of them are very educated, but they have very little opportunity to participate in the rest of the world because they are very isolated. Also they had very few opportunities for work at home.
In your opinion, why did Libya prompt NATO involvement, and not Syria?
They already had Libya’s oil, so that was not their interest It took tremendous courage for them to go out into the streets. I talked to my translator, who was there in Benghazi. First they protested because a lawyer got arrested—who was acting on behalf of families of the Abu Salim prison massacre in 1996—but once the lawyer was released, they were shouting ‘The People demand’—and then they looked at each other and went (lowers voice) ‘the downfall of the regime.’ Once the lid was off and they saw that there was this opportunity, it very quickly grew into a national movement. Does the Libyan Transitional Council have sufficient control and support within the country to move it from a revolutionary war to a civilian state? Well, you know I think it is a very dark stain on the birth of a new country when it starts with the lynching of its former leader. I was in Libya at the time and was in Sirte when Gaddafi was caught and killed and many more people were killed around him. It wasn’t just him as a personal figure of hatred, it was also his son … and almost 200 of his loyalists that lived with him. I think it demonstrates perfectly the challenge that the new Libya faces. The need to bring the country under control and establishing legitimacy is not just about 8
controlling the military; it’s also about winning the trust of the population. And after 42 years of just having this one man run the country, it will be very difficult to build up the institutions that you need to run a representative government, and a government that is elected. During Gaddafi’s regime, very few advances were made towards addressing the socioeconomic rights, opportunities and status of women. In your view, what are the prospects for women wishing to play a stronger role in the Libyan public space? I would actually disagree with you on the issue of women’s rights. I mean it was a very authoritarian regime, but it also was a secular regime—it was not a religious state. So women, by Middle Eastern standards, participated quite openly in some sectors of politics and the economy. And I was very struck when I first crossed the border from Egypt into Libya. The first person I saw was this woman, with her flowing hair and a brown leather jacket and a Kalashnikov, who was one of the revolutionaries, so I think it’s important that we don’t misrepresent what the role of women was during Gaddafi’s era. But I think one of the greatest challenges is that we can’t assume that the new Middle East – in Egypt, in Tunisia or Libya – will be a better place for women, just because
Look, there’s little doubt that Gaddafi stood poised to destroy the revolution in Libya and that he was within days, and ultimately hours, of retaking Benghazi and finishing off the revolution. I mean, it would have been a bloodbath. The Libyan revolution did not start off as a violent movement. It started off as a non-violent protest movement, which was shot down in the streets. [The] international community, led by the French and the Americans, was faced with a very difficult choice of either standing by and watching this bloodbath happen or getting involved. They chose to get involved, not because of Libya’s oil – they already had Libya’s oil, so that was not their interest – because they were tired of Gaddafi’s antics… Gaddafi was very isolated in the international community already. He had upset every other Arab leader long before this war ever started. So there was a momentum to come in on the side of the revolution. Syria is a much more complex environment… The option of a military intervention, right at the heart of the Middle East, and drawing in Russia and Iran, [could spark] a regional conflict that could involve Israel and Lebanon and Iraq, Russia and everybody else.
is a third-year student majoring in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
Cutting out the middleman From the headlines of national newspapers to the steps of Jameson Hall, labour broking has become a hot topic. What exactly is labour broking? Where does South Africa stand? The Armchair Globalist is here to explain.
abour brokers act as a middleman between companies seeking to hire labour and the labourers themselves. Companies or clients procure workers of various forms through a Temporary Employment Service (TES), commonly referred to as labour brokers. As the name suggests, the TESs usually provide labour on a temporary basis—anything from bricklayers to office assistants are provided by TESs. Companies pay the labour brokers, who in turn pay the workers. It may seem that labour brokers play a redundant role in business: surely companies can hire their workers themselves? However, labour brokers benefit companies in several ways. Firstly, companies who work through TESs are able to circumvent administrative and procedural responsibilities that the Labour Relations Act (LRA) in South Africa imposes on employers. The labour brokers take on the legal obligations of hiring labour, as well as dealing with issues such as strikes and dismissals. Other administrative issues such as handing out UIF (unemployment insurance fund) money, pensions, and organising payrolls are put in the hands of the labour brokers rather than the companies themselves. Secondly, labour broking provides an element of flexibility and efficiency in the labour market that is not otherwise possible. TESs are in the position to put the right employees in the offices of the right employers. In our current economic climate, a flexible labour market is crucial. Employers will be reluctant to take on workers if it is difficult to dismiss these workers when they can no longer afford them, which is often the case with South Africa’s restrictive hiring and firing laws. What makes labour broking such a contentious issue is the room for exploitation within the system. The general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, Irvin Jim, recently went as far as to call labour broking ‘modern slavery’. Clients get labour without tedious obligations imposed by the LRA, but workers get inadequate job security. Workers are only employed as long as the companies they work for are under contract with the labour brokers, and are thus disempowered. The termination of contracts, and the subsequent dismissal of workers, has no repercussions for employers in the Labour Court if they choose to work through a TES—the TES is responsible. With the unemployment rate in South Africa as high as it is, workers will take on any kind of employment available, even if it is temporary. For this reason COSATU and other organisations have been involved in nationwide strikes demanding a ban on labour broking. What is interesting to note is that workers who are employed through temporary employment services are unlikely to ever join a trade union. This is because they are never in an industry long enough to fall under a specific category of worker (like miner or nurse). Banning labour
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broking would enhance the bargaining power of workers— by forcing them to specialise—while conveniently increasing trade union membership as people commit to specific vocations with corresponding unions. However, a complete ban of labour broking will have detrimental effects for the country’s economy. As a labour lawyer from Cape Town noted, banning labour broking will only worsen our economic situation and undermine growth and efficiency. Removing TESs re-introduces the costs and risks of employing workers and thus discourages employers from taking on workers at all, worsening the problem of unemployment. In his National Planning Commission diagnostic report last year, Trevor Manuel said that ‘The social cost of long-term unemployment is staggering. In South Africa, if young people fail to get a job by the age of 24, they are almost never likely to get full-time formal employment. As a consequence, about 60% of an entire generation could live their lives without ever holding a formal job’.
Labour broking provides an element of flexibility and efficiency in the labour market that is not possible otherwise Furthermore, labour brokers increase the labour participation rate (more people working); they also provide temporary employment for workers re-entering the job market and senior workers who would potentially not find work in the conventional way. Most significantly, they provide immediate employment for the youth. Pravin Gordhan wrote in Business Day that ‘For the young, the effect of starting their working life unemployed can last a lifetime and is associated with poverty, crime, violence and a loss of morale’. Currently the government is in favour of reform rather than banning labour broking altogether. However, the controversy surrounding the issue has pre-empted a new amendment to labour law. Temporary contracts that extend longer than six months have to be made permanent contracts. While this amendment is generally applicable, and not specifically directed at TESs, it will provide greater job security for some employees employed through TESs. Labour broking appears to present a trade-off for workers: work with TESs and accept the negative implications for job security, or work without TESs and face the probability of unemployment. For the general public, the choice seems to be between supporting individual workers (perhaps to the detriment of others) and doing what is best for the economy as a whole. As long as these choices are difficult to make, labour broking will remain a contentious issue. CTG
Lori-Rae van Laren
is a third-year student majoring in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
A very long engagement The Struggle continues for the veterans of the ANC as they fight to reclaim the organisation from yet another abusive regime. Luyolo Sibikwe reports.
n 2009, the African National Congress finally acknowledged the role that its veterans had played in leading the organisation and established the ANC Veterans League (ANCVL). The members of this prestigious club are required to be over the age of sixty and to have been part of the ANC for a minimum of forty years. The league’s primary purpose is to be the custodian of the ANC and to provide parent-like guidance and correction where activities in the organisation are divergent from its core values. At this point, it is easy to see why many might be convinced that the ANCVL is not serving its purpose. Not a day passes without South Africans hearing some or other scandal involving the ANC. Even for the staunchest of supporters, any attempt to deny the unruly qualities of at least certain elements of the party would be naïve at best. So what went wrong?
‘the conflict within the ANC is fanned by individuals who lead factions’
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
Luyolo Sibikwe is a first-year student majoring in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.
The fact is that since its inception, the ANCVL has been blocked from real participation in the activities of the movement, used only occasionally when its members are publicly paraded as the feted senior participants of The Struggle. Despite the fact that the Veterans League carries equal power to that of the ANC Youth League and Women’s League, they have been denied the ability to operate from the ANC headquarters at Luthuli House, and have not yet been given an office from which to conduct their activities. The blame for the ineffective nature of the league therefore falls squarely on the shoulders of those who brought it into existence in the first place: the ANC itself. Whilst the veterans have expressed their desire to continue actively to contribute to the party and country for which they fought, their current role - as seen by the latest generation of party leaders - is perhaps best summed up by Kgalema Motlanthe: ‘The veterans are old and tired, they must rest,’ he said. But like many South Africans, our Deputy President is unaware of the veterans’ involvement in a new ‘underground movement’ that is currently brewing beneath the surface of our highly propagated, ‘rainbow nation’ democracy.
‘One province at a time’ seems to be the mantra of the veterans. They have established their own headquarters in Limpopo and together with the province’s Premier, Cassel Mathale, they are moving to remodel the province according to the Freedom Charter. They have started by kicking corrupt officials installed under the Zuma regime to touch. The February appointment of Boy Otto Marule, chairperson of the ANCVL, as MEC of Agriculture in Limpopo is one of the developments that has enabled the league to become more influential within the legislature and to participate in the shift towards the self-sufficiency and productivity of the province. So with its foot firmly in Limpopo’s door, the Veterans League sets its sights on Gauteng, the Northwest Province, and Manguang, in light of the looming electoral conference in December. At the elective conference, the ANCVL would ideally see a completely new leadership emerge as they are of the view that the current one has formed a deconstructive clique of elites, all influencing one another with slates, factionalism, and bribery. The President of the ANCVL, former MK soldier and Robben Island prisoner Sandi Sijake, believes that ‘the conflict within the ANC is fanned by individuals who lead factions’. The veterans are wary of the fear that can be generated amongst ANC members through bribery, as well as threats and intimidation, with a view to consolidating the victory of a particular faction leader. And what about the youth? The ANCVL is of the opinion that the ANC Youth League and its leaders are not to blame for the recent tension between the league and its mother body. The veterans are clear that the Youth League offices that were occupied by Julius Malema and the other youth leaders, have been abused by senior leadership of the ANC who are using these positions to rally support for individual faction leaders in the hope of occupying the ‘main stage’ of the ANC. The veterans, who have not featured at all in the disciplinary action taken against the Youth League, hope to develop the youth into a competent force that will perpetuate the ideals upon which the ANC is based. So, as we sit and watch politicians leave the democratic values inherent in the core values of the ANC by the wayside and continue to ravage the country in their search for power and wealth, there remains a glimmer of hope – hope that those who bore the weight of so many decades of struggle for an equal South Africa can put us back on the right path again. CTG
Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up? The stage is set, the players have been prompted and the drama begins. Dela Gwala discusses the neck-and-neck campaigning for this year’s American elections.
itt Romney: ‘vulture capitalist’, ‘flip-flopper’, ‘charisma-free’ and the ‘etch-a-sketch’ man. The Republican’s likely presidential nominee has dealt with a lot of name-calling, mostly from people within his own party. The self-proclaimed ‘rebels’ (read hard-nosed conservatives) of the Grand Old Party (GOP) have flung mud at his previously ‘stand-up’ reputation. President Barack Obama, the Democrat’s choice, remained cautiously tight-lipped during the hard-fought Republican nomination process but he has now joined the fray, calling Mitt out on everything from his fickle viewpoints to his tax returns. As the GOP’s primaries come to an end, the Republican frontrunner and the Democratic incumbent are locking heads in preparation for the ultimate showdown – the general election in November. The final stage of the GOP presidential nomination race has seen the surrender of Mitt’s main competitor, Rick Santorum, and a desperately flailing campaign from the other main candidate, Newt Gingrich. Although the death knell for their respective campaigns has been sounded, they’ve managed to cause a whole heap of trouble for Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum’s former campaign team has begun a digital clean-up, working furiously to remove his attacks on Romney from the staunch conservative’s website. These accusations included Romney’s support for ‘Obamacare’, denying his loyalty to the Republicans, Romney’s support of the Wall Street bailout, and his ideological inconsistency. These claims made national headlines and it might just be too late to wipe the slate clean. Although the big players within the Republican Party are now rallying around Romney, the Democrats have already pounced on the remnants of the Republican squabbling. One of the primary campaign shackles that Romney hasn’t been able to shake is the suspicion surrounding his personal wealth. The multimillionaire has created a murmur of disdain among the Republican working class and has been accused of being ‘out of touch’ with the lives of normal Americans. This criticism was primarily fuelled by Romney’s supposed joke that he is ‘unemployed.’ One American citizen wrote in response to CNN’s broadcast of this fiasco, stating that ‘If you are a millionaire your money is never “unemployed”, it is earning its own money.’ Early on in the GOP race, Newt Gingrich put pressure on Romney to release his tax returns. After a faltering response and delay, he published his tax returns for 2010 but there has been a renewed call from the Democrats (and Obama himself ) to disclose tax returns dating back to 1990. Mitt Romney has also fed his ‘big business’ image by endorsing a contentious Republican budget plan that ensures tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. Despite its controversial points, the ‘Paul Ryan plan’ is geared towards solving the US deficit prob-
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lem which is an issue the Democrats haven’t really taken up. The US has recently experienced an economic upturn but President Obama is still chasing down a housing crisis and high unemployment rate inherited from the Bush administration. The economic upsurge has not been shining its favour on everyone; female job losses are on the rise. The Republicans and the Democrats are blaming each other in a bid to secure the coveted female vote. Traditionally, women have leaned towards the Democrats and are even touted as the reason Obama won the elections in 2008. During the current election cycle, women’s issues have taken centre stage. Republican conservatives have been alienating this key constituency by plugging anti-abortion and anti-contraception legislation. Yet this flurry of ‘pro-life’ rhetoric has backfired, and the upshot for the Democrats is that it is helping to promote their healthcare plan.
Democrats have already pounced on the remnants of the Republican squabbling The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, nicknamed ‘Obamacare’, has been unpopular since it was signed into law two years ago, but its pro-choice provisions mean that the tide might be turning. Although this piece of legislation might face repeal in the Supreme Court, its protection of women’s health interests means that it remains a significant part of the Democrats’ election arsenal. Another case that might steal the election limelight this year involves a two headed monster: racial tension and gun control. Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager, was shot and killed in February by a mixed race man. George Zimmerman, the accused, is claiming self-defence in a murder case that has taken on a racial agenda. Zimmerman is invoking a law called ‘Stand your ground’ which allows people to use force if they feel threatened. This law is ardently advocated by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA is an influential interest group for the Republican camp and Mitt Romney is currently trying to ensure their backing. Obama has remained relatively silent on gun issues and Romney is using this as leverage with the NRA. However, as governor of Massachusetts, Romney was strict on gun control laws and tough on the NRA, which begs the question of where his true loyalties lie. In the battle of Obama versus Romney some commentators have claimed that it isn’t much of a fight: neither candidate is particularly confrontational. Both men have been characterised by the media as being level-headed and critical of the nasty game of politics. Yet developments in the race are proving this assertion wrong: both seem ready to get their political hands dirty. CTG
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
is studying International Relations, French and Media.
Coup, crisis and conflict Mali has made headlines as the latest African state to witness a coup. Food security, religious militants, and a growing stream of refugees have created a serious dilemma for the state. Ashleigh Furlong reports.
irst, there was a coup, then a declaration of secession, followed by a tentative return to democratic rule. Now there are fears of a humanitarian crisis: clearly, Mali is in tumult. The activities of Islamist fighters linked to Al-Qaeda in the north, combined with difficulties supplying aid to thousands of fleeing Malians, has placed Mali at the forefront of international news and raised fears of destabilisation in the region.On March 21st, in the Malian capital of Bamako, a group of soldiers mutinied against President Amadou Toumani Toure. By March 22nd, the uprising had evolved into a coup proper. The coup’s leaders stated their opposition to Toure’s failure to act against Tuareg rebels as the reason for ousting the democratic government. Tuareg militia have been fighting in northern Mali for years with the aim of establishing their own state. Despite the soldiers’ intentions, the coup did little to abate Tuareg rebel activity and instead led to the rebels’ advancement into much of northern Mali. After enormous international pressure, combined with threats of sanctions and removal of aid, the coup leaders announced that there would be a return to democratic rule. Shortly thereafter Toure resigned, paving the way for Dioncounda Traore—former head of the National Assembly—to sign in as interim president on April 12th. The Tuareg rebels have ties with former members of
‘We won’t hesitate to wage a total, relentless war to regain our territorial integrity and also to kick out of our country all these invaders who bring despair and misery.’
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
is a first-year student majoring in Media & Writing, English and Politics.
Muammar Gaddafi’s military, as well as al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram—a radical Islamist group responsible for recent attacks on Christians in Nigeria. The links with alQaeda have sparked fears amongst the international community that the group wishes to use Mali as a base for increased activity in western Africa. France—Mali’s former colonial ruler—is among the states to have expressed such fears. French Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, warned that ‘al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) will take advantage of the situation to expand its perimeter of activity and strengthen the terrorist threat’. However, reports of Islamic law being imposed in some of the northern cities—despite the Tuareg stated desire for a secular state—suggest that there may be divisions between Islamist and Tuareg groups. In an incident possibly confirming such reports, a bus of civilians fleeing the city of Gao on April 8th was pushed off the road by
what was assumed to be a group of Tuareg rebels. Islamists arrived at the scene and reportedly slit the throat of one of the Tuaregs, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’, Arabic for ‘God is great’. The bus was one of thousands, as people in the northern part of the country try to escape violence and instability. Families camp outside bus stations in Gao, waiting for a place on the overcrowded buses. The exodus has heightened uncertainty about the future of northern Mali. In an impassioned effort to dispel Malians’ fears, Traore declared in his inauguration speech, ‘We won’t hesitate to wage a total, relentless war to regain our territorial integrity and also to kick out of our country all these invaders who bring despair and misery.’ In an attempt to reverse these gains, ECOWAS, an economic community of fifteen West African states, intends to assemble an intervention army of approximately 3000 soldiers to reclaim land taken by Tuareg rebels and Islamic fighters. At a meeting on April 12th, the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council decided that forces will be deployed if talks negotiated by the regional mediator President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso fail. It is hoped that ECOWAS nations will provide these troops, but already Liberia has refused, and there are fears that countries such as Nigeria and Guinea will do the same. This is despite France’s offer of logistic support for the intervention, and before any formal request has been issued by ECOWAS. Humanitarian aid is an issue of growing concern as instability hinders efforts to supply aid to Mali’s citizens, and the looting of stores and hospitals is heightening fears of famine. On April 23rd a coalition of aid agencies said that the Sahel region is suffering a food crisis affecting at least six million people, and according to the Mail & Guardian, of the estimated US$250 million needed to assist those in crisis, only US$52 million has been raised. European Crisis Response Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva called for ‘All parties involved in the fighting to respect the rights of civilians and International Humanitarian Law and to give unhindered access for humanitarian workers to those in need’. In an attempt to alleviate the situation, ECOWAS has committed an extra three million US dollars (roughly 23 415 000 ZAR) to Mali, and though the EU temporarily cut off its aid to Mali immediately after the coup, it has since expressed support for ECOWAS’ decisions. Furthering the strain on the region, Malians fleeing the violence are crossing into Algeria, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger, putting further pressure on an area already struggling to produce enough supply of food. Mali’s leaders face a complicated situation: a strengthening Islamic presence in the north, an impending food crisis, and the Tuareg rebels demands for secession. Thus far, there is little to allay doubts that the crisis will be solved without bloodshed. CTG
A Nobel cause
Burma is changing, or so the military rulers would have us believe. Michelle October explores how much more still needs to happen before the Burmese people experience genuine democracy.
ollowing a successful by-election on the 1st April this year, the atmosphere amongst Burmese locals is one of tentative hope. The election, meant to be the first fair one of its kind in fifty years, saw the National League for Democracy (NLD) win a landslide victory, claiming 43 of the 44 seats it contested. Led by feted activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD is widely seen as the torchbearer in what has been a long struggle for Democracy in Burma. Some observers feel that the elections and their subsequent results are a significant step towards that end. The first sniff of reform, of the infamously reclusive military dictatorship ‘opening up’, came back in 2010 when Suu Kyi (an Amnesty International favourite) was released from house arrest after twenty years. As well as allowing the release of other prominent political prisoners, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), led by Thein Sein, has also lifted oppressive bans on the media, and is in the process of holding peace talks with rebel groups in the north of the country; it has enacted laws allowing for the establishment of trade unions, and has begun economic reforms. But the much-condemned military government isn’t out of the woods yet, nor is a happy and healthy democracy a foregone conclusion for Burma. Only time will tell if the government is sincere and determined in its apparent desire to reform, or if it is merely trying to warm up historically icy relations with the West. Whatever the case, there is a lot of work still to be done. First and foremost, the most recent constitution, put in place in 2008 and lauded by the military government as trendily democratic, is seen by the opposition as merely a sly reinforcement of military rule behind a new face. The NLD were banned from shaping the constitution’s contents, which apparently states that 25% of parliament and government seats must still be allocated to military representatives, regardless of elections, and stipulates that the president is chosen by three committees—as opposed to the traditional democratic popular vote. Nor were the recent by-elections carried out without a few hitches: newly-turned adults were unable to vote, given that data had not been updated since failed elections in 2010. This also meant that names of now deceased Burmese citizens still appeared on voter lists. In addition, the NLD was denied access to stadiums for the elections, whilst the USDP has been accused of vote-buying. And for all the furore surrounding the landslide results,the by-
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elections have had very little influence on the actual governing of Burma, as the contested seats won by the NLD constitute a very small portion of the total one thousand seats in government. As suggested already, it bears considering further what might be motivating the apparent softening of Burmese government policy. Having been subject to heavy economic sanctions by the West over recent decades due to a less than desirable human rights record, it might all come down to the government’s desire to open up the investment market. Burma is a rich mineral, metals, and timber resource. Its unique and beneficial positioning between India and China makes it an attractive investment opportunity for international business. Since the floating of the Burmese kyat (its currency), numerous prospective investors have been itching to get a foot in.
Only time will tell if the government is sincere and determined in its apparent desire to reform Suu Kyi has—not surprisingly—consistently backed economic sanctions on the military government, stating that said sanctions push it to follow through with its promised democratic makeover. However, the EU has recently suspended its sanctions on the country, and the US has agreed to lift some of its own in the near future. The risk remains that should all sanctions be lifted too quickly, incentives for democratic and economic reform would suddenlyvanish. As the democratisation process still rests squarely in the hands of the military, the international community would do well to approach with caution. In an interview last month, Suu Kyi agreed that democratic change in Burma is still very much reversible: ‘Ultimate power still rests with the army so until we have the army solidly behind the process of democratisation we cannot say that we have got to a point where there will be no danger of a U-turn.’ Despite any recent progress—and even with proposed general elections beckoning invitingly in 2015—the people of Burma are still wary of getting ahead of themselves. After more than fifty years of waiting for something to give, patience is a virtue they have had to learn the hard way. CTG
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
is a third-year student majoring in Screenwriting.
Dirty laundering in public
The ties between South Africa and Iran are dubious and messy – and the world is about to find out, writes Olivia Walton.
outh Africa’s recently revealed links with Iran, the world’s current pariah state, have brought it under internal—and international—scrutiny. Mobile network giant MTN is being sued by Turkcell, its competitor, for the Iranian market, and in the process has been accused of potential human rights violations. Even closer to home, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s partner Gugu Mtshali is under investigation for her alleged role in soliciting a bribe in exchange for government support for the sale of helicopters to Iran.
We have chosen a bad time to get into a possibly illegal – and messy at the very least – relationship with Iran.
Above: South African deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe
Turkcell’s US$4.2-billion case, filed in a US court, accuses MTN of bribing Iranian government officials, with offers of weapons and South African support for Iran in the UN, in exchange for the licence to operate in Iran. Turkcell was granted this licence in 2004 through an international tender process, but the agreement was abruptly terminated in favour of MTN. US courts were chosen as the site of the lawsuit, as both Turkcell and MTN have business interests in America, and because if the allegations prove true, MTN will have violated international law. The plot thickens. MTN has since been accused of
giving its subscribers’ information to the Iranian military and intelligence services. This has serious human rights implications, as it is possible that the Iranian military used this information to track, find, arrest and—in the worst case scenario—torture dissidents. MTN’s defence is thus against allegations of human rights violations and corporate mischief. The Democratic Alliance (DA) approached the South African Human Rights Commission, asking it to investigate claims of human rights violations which MTN has flatly denied by saying that it adheres to the South African Constitution, which prohibits such things. In the days following Turkcell’s announcement of its suit, MTN shares dropped by 7,5%. MTN Group chief executive Sifiso Dabengwa has dismissed Turkcell’s claims, claiming that Turkcell ‘was never awarded the licence in Iran.’ The group’s official line is that the Turkcell case has no legal merit, and that it lost the 2004 tender because of its own failures. And then there is Gugu Mtshali and the helicopters. A voice recording of a meeting with 360 Aviation suggests that Mtshali and Raisaka Masebelanga, a former De Beers executive, attempted to solicit a bribe from the airline company to the value of R104-million, in shares and cash. A letter stating support from the Department of Trade and Industry for 360 Aviation’s involvement with Iran (from April last year) was apparently written by Mtshali and others as bait for the bribe. The letter was signed by the acting deputy general Riaan le Roux.
In return Mtshali, Masebelanga and others offered government support for the supply of US Bell helicopters and spare parts—to a total value of R2-billion—to the National Iranian Oil Company. The agreement would allegedly have involved the use of the South African company as a front to skirt US law, which prohibits the sale of arms to Iran. According to the Mail & Guardian, the deal collapsed when 360 Aviation was unable to come to an agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company. 360 Aviation’s website makes no mention of any of these developments. A number of other South African companies are also implicated in a probe by the Government Arms Control Committee, as spare parts they have shipped to Iran may violate UN sanctions. Gemini Moon—a company set up by 360 Aviation, but in fact owned by Iranian company Heli Kish—bought a Bell 212 helicopter, shipped it to South Africa, changed its registration and shipped it to Iran—dubious indeed. Despite the deal’s failure, Mtshali is not off the hook. After the scandal broke in March, Motlanthe—who claimed to have had no knowledge of Mtshali’s involvement— asked the public protector to investigate the allegations. The UN has also said it will investigate. Barry Oberholzer, 360 Aviation’s managing director, has gone public about his involvement and offered evidence to the FBI in exchange for immunity from prosecution. If the allegations are found to be true they will implicate the South African government in defying US and UN sanctions. In addition to the accusations against MTN by Turkcell, the picture is not pretty. Iran’s secrecy about its nuclear programme, and its refusal to bow to international pressure and end all nuclear
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activity, has led to growing fears about the stability of the state and the region as a whole (see ‘Keep Calm and Ignore Iran’, The Cape Town Globalist, Edition 1 2012). South Africa’s Iranian connection is thus particularly complicated and threatens to bring the disapproval of Iran’s enemies and critics onto this country’s leadership. We have chosen a bad time to get into a possibly illegal— and messy at the very least—relationship with Iran.
MTN’s defence is thus against allegations of human rights violations and corporate mischief. Although Iran has agreed to talks with six of the usual suspect world powers: Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the US, the question of a military strike still hangs in the balance. The talks are set to begin on May 23rd, which in the world of international politics, is a long way away. Iran’s banks have been cut off from global banking systems, and the EU oil embargo is set to begin on July 1st. Time is no longer on Iran’s side—though it is holding out against pressure to limit its stock of 20%-enriched (weapons-grade) uranium, of which it has 120 of the 185kg necessary for a bomb. Obama’s comment that ‘the window for diplomacy is closing,’ implies that if talks fail—or if tension reaches fever pitch before they even begin—a Middle Eastern war may be a very real possibility. South Africa might not have an easy time keeping out of the fray. CTG
Above: a Bell 212 helicopter, an example of one of the helicopters Motlanthe’s partner Mtshali has allegedly help sell to Iran. Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
is an Honours student in History.
Hard to swallow I
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
is a writer for the Yale Globalist.
t’s a libertarian’s nightmare: government-appointed social workers forcing your family into public housing, making your children exercise, even standing in your new kitchen as you prepare food. And if your children fail to slim down, you lose them. In one instance, Scottish parents from the town of Dundee saw the four youngest of their seven children forcibly removed from their home after failing to comply with the government’s health standards. The Council’s decision wasn’t without precedent: the UK’s Local Government Association released a report in 2008 warning that child obesity could be seen as a sign of ‘parental neglect.’ If a physician judges a child’s weight to be dangerously high, that child might well be removed until he or she reaches a safer weight. Dr. Sandra Hassink, director of the Nemours Pediatric Obesity Initiative in Delaware’s AI DuPont Hospital for Children, points out that isolated cases such as the one of Dundee are part of a national trend. Childhood obesity, which has doubled in the UK since 1995 to affect nearly one in four British children, is an epidemic, said Hassink. Though Hassink accepts that foster care might be a solution in extreme cases, she criticises the practice for precluding the use of education, a healthy food environment, and expert advice for families whose children are at risk.
Around the time of the British government’s 2007 Foresight Report, which projected 50% national obesity by 2050 at the current pace of change, a slew of programs went into effect to combat obesity in all sectors of national life—especially children. The Department of health created the organisation Change4Life, which has restocked hundreds of convenience stores with fresher foods, especially fruits and vegetables. At ages four and ten, all public schoolchildren are weighed and measured, and the resulting BMI shared with parents who have the choice to find out more through the National Health Service. Though sedentary lifestyles, Mars Bars, and a lack of parental response all contribute to the UK’s difficulties, awareness of the causes will not be enough to drag Britain’s obesity rate back from the brink of disaster. As long as the British government fails to enact any longterm solution, parents deemed unfit for overfeeding will force local governments into controversial confiscation—but the chance that children might fall to heart disease before they reach the age of independence calls for drastic measures. A young body doesn’t respond to parental goodwill, but to how parents physically treat it. Until certain edible substances start to receive the same kind of attention as cigarettes in the 1970s, developed nations’ intentions will remain misguided. G21
Missing women I
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
is a writer for the South Australian Globalist.
t is not common knowledge, but according to the authors of Half the Sky: How to Change the World, the number of females killed in the last 50 years simply because they were female is higher than the number of men killed in all the battles of the 20th century. Why? Because these women were born into misogynous cultures where ‘femicide’, or the killing of women, is acceptable. Sex selective abortion, infanticide and honour killings are among the most horrendous manifestations of this culture. Infanticide and the sex selective abortion of females occur mainly across Asian countries, including India, China, Taiwan and Korea. Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen estimated that there were approximately 100 million ‘missing women’ from the region as a result of these practices throughout the 1990s. The misogynist cultural belief of ‘son preference’ is still upheld strongly within the relevant societies. The normal, naturally occurring sex ratio at birth is from 103 – 106 males to 100 females. However, in China, the average sex ratio at birth is 123 boys per 100 girls. According to The Economist, this is biologically impossible
without the human influence of practices such as sex selective abortion. Honour killings largely occur across Middle Eastern states. Women who have been raped, judged as promiscuous or have refused an arranged marriage are seen as jeopardising the family’s honour and are then killed by a member or members of their family. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 5000 women are killed annually by honour killings; however some analysts believe this number is probably underestimated as most honour killings are recorded as suicides, accidents, or not at all. Many cases go unpunished or perpetrators are given reduced sentences as the relevant penal codes often allow relaxed sentencing for honour crimes. To reduce the threat of femicide, the misogynous attitudes deeply embedded in some societies must be directly challenged. The world’s current inability to do this is darkening the pages of our history with each and every girl and woman unnecessarily killed by acts stemming from long-standing misogynous cultures. G21
Freedom Paradox for the people images by gareth smit & text by joseph weinberg
Get up! Stand up! by chris clark
Rof Taal by amber kriel
Spectres of Tupac by jacob claassens
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apoeira was born out of struggle, yet its contemporary manifestation seems divorced from it. While unscripted histories are always contentious, it is commonly believed to have originated in Brazillian senzalas (slave camps), as a means for African slaves to resist the authority of their colonial slave masters. Capoeira is ever-morphing and has adapted to an array of different contexts. As declared by Reinaldo Ramos Suassuna (also known as ‘Mestre Suassuna’), head of the international capoeira organisation, Cordão de Ouro: ‘Capoeira expands in all directions. Capoeira is very strong and multifaceted, and it is not this or that opinion that will dominate: no one is lord and master of Capoeira. Not I, not anyone’. In 1966, Suassuna founded the Cordão de Ouro style of Capoeira in Brazil. It is now practiced in the city of Cape Town, under the guidance of Contra-Mestre Espirrinho, a student of Suassuna’s from Sao Paulo. Even in Cape Town, far removed from the context of its origin, the roots of protest in Capoeira are clear. People who know very little about the phenomenon of Capoeira often refer to it as that ‘fightey-dance thing’, or alternatively as that ‘dancey-fight thing’. They might also throw in a smile at the apparent paradox. While these people are most likely to be misinformed about the particulars of the game, this generalisation is actually not too far off the mark. The game occurs at the point where fight and dance merge, enclosed within the roda (circle). At the head of this human circle is the orchestra, around which an environment of communal musical participation is created through singing and hand clapping. This instrumental component is called the bateria, literally translated as battery. The fundamental role of the bateria is to generate a highly charged energetic space within which the game of Capoeira can be played. The roda also functions like a social microcosm, encapsulating the paradoxical elements of dance and fight, beauty and violence,
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light and shadow within its boundaries. In the social space of the roda, as well as within the body of the capoeirista, these oppositions not only co-exist, but are deeply interdependent. The game of Capoeira is an energetic bodily conversation between two people at a time, and the ability of capoeiristas to fight within the dance or dance within the fight is known as malicia. Malicia is the fundamental philosophy
of Capoeira, a mode of interaction on the misty boundary of an ongoing paradox. It is characteristically unclear, and is difficult to put into words. In practice, it can be understood as a playerâ€™s ability to wear a variety of masks, to trick and deceive through disguising the violence that exists as a fundamental aspect of human nature. While malicia is a universal concept, it was incorporated into Capoeira in response to the conditions of slavery, where deception and
disguise became a way for the weak to resist those in power. According to folklore, the roda originally functioned as a protective space, facilitating the development and transmission of various techniques of resistance. In this space, deadly martial maneuvers were trained under the guise of a ritual dance. The roda and the practice of malicia are still very much alive in the contemporary expression of Ca-
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poeira. Capoeira doesnâ€™t seem like protest, and thatâ€™s the point really. In one sense Capoeira is as it was - the face of resistance still wears the mask of submission, the fight is still disguised as the dance. CTG photographs taken with the co-operation of Alive Dance Studio in Muizenberg, Cape Town
songs of freedom
Get up! Stand up! You probably haven’t heard it yet, but a brave new wave of protest music got the Arab Spring jumping. Despotic leaders singing the same old tune for much too long fell to the sound of their people’s songs. Chris Clark investigates.
f you Google news and feature articles on protest music in the Arab Spring, not much comes up. For all Al Jazeera’s extensive and much-commended coverage of the Jasmine Revolution since its very beginnings in late 2010, they have posted a grand total of one article on the topic, aside from which there is simply a short piece from Egyptian paper The National and one other entry on someone’s personal blog.
With its straight-taking style, hip hop has perhaps been the genre at the forefront of the Arab Spring furore Put the same search into YouTube and it’s a very different story. From politically-oriented Yemeni folk music to Tunisian hip hop sensation El General, the site is overflowing with the sounds of revolution from all over the Arab world. There are hundreds of clips—some attracting up to half a million hits. 22
What is quickly apparent is that the music of the Arab Spring doesn’t need anyone else to be its mouthpiece—the music speaks for itself, and it is speaking loud and clear. Whatever the genre, and whatever the particulars of the country, the underlying message of the music has been almost universally succinct across much of the Arabic speaking world. ‘We demand one thing,’ says Egyptian singer-songwriter Ramy Essam (as if speaking directly to then president Hosni Mubarak): ‘Leave, leave, leave’. The lyrics are sung over soft guitar chords and the traditional rhythm of an Egyptian daf drum. ‘It’s time to leave Bashar,’ echoes the similar refrain of a popular dabke ‘call-and-response’ folk song in Syria. With its straight-talking style, hip hop has perhaps been the genre at the forefront of the Arab Spring furore. Before the world of ‘bitches’ and ‘bling’ took over, hip hop was born and cultivated in the US as a way of—quite literally—speaking out from the often ostracised corners of society about problems like poverty, unemployment, lack of opportunities, and police brutality. This history, and the enduring importance of oral and performance poetry in the Arab world, make it is easy to see why hip hop has been the voice of many of those sub-
songs of freedom
jected to similar conditions by the iron-fisted and longstanding regimes of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya. As Marc Levine wrote for Al Jazeera, ‘Today, Tunis, Cairo and other Arab capitals have, in one sense, inherited the mantle of Compton, Oakland or Brooklyn, where much of the most famous political American rap emerged’. The most famous name associated with this new movement is twenty-one-year-old Tunisian rapper El General. In the days that followed the now infamous self-immolation by the Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, El General released the song, simply entitled ‘President of the Country’, that would (perhaps unwittingly) launch him to fame. The lines below capture the song’s overall tone: Mr. President your people are dead many people eat from garbage and you see what is happening in the country misery everywhere and people who have not found a place to sleep I am speaking in the name of the people who are suffering El General goes on to proclaim that he is speaking directly to the president on behalf of those whose ‘voice was not heard’. Shortly after the song exploded onto Facebook and young, angry Tunisians began to take to the streets, El General wound up in jail where he was interrogated by Ben Ali’s notoriously violent and corrupt police force. When asked why he had said such inflammatory things about the government, the rapper said ‘I’m only telling the truth’. El General was released some weeks later into a world that was almost unrecognisable from the one of which he had sung: with his help, the people of Tunisia had found their voice. Throughout this historic and still-ongoing period of resistance in the Middle East, songs of protest like El General’s have been able to reach and mobilise the people of the Arab nations in a way that few other media platforms can—especially in a world where the press, and even the
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internet, sometimes come under heavy state control. A lot of attention has been drawn to the part that Twitter and Facebook have had to play in the wildfire spread of revolution across the region. The generally strong, to-the-point, and often repetitive lyrics of the songs of revolution work well in tandem with these kinds of social networks—they are often the fastest and most direct way to get a message out or call fellow countrymen to arms.
The crowd was soon behind him, and cries of ‘leave, leave, leave’ reverberated around the square once more But the fact remains that social media is still inaccessible for certain sections of the population; and perhaps more notably, social media ceases to be particularly useful as soon as the revolution goes beyond people’s front doors and spills onto the streets. There has, however, been no stopping the music. Whilst Faceboook and Twitter could be compared to the generals of an army—calling the shots and motivating the troops from back at base—the songs themselves are right there on the front line of battle as protestors chant the lyrics in the face of the enemy. Sometimes even the bands and performers themselves are there on the frontline too. Essam was singing to protestors in Tahrir Square when government supporters rode in on horseback, brandishing batons and guns, and throwing Molotov cocktails into the crowd. He was one of the many who were injured; but like most of the protestors, he was back on stage the next day, his head wrapped in bandages. The crowd was soon behind him, and cries of ‘leave, leave, leave’ reverberated around the square once more. In these countries, where so many could tell stories of terrible hardship and poverty, and where so many have lost loved ones and have been unheard for so long, the music of the Arab spring has helped give people a way to speak in unison. And they haven’t shown any sign of stopping. CTG
Above: Tunisian rapper, El General, along with screenshots from his YouTube clips.
Images courtesy of wikimedia commons and popdust.com
is a second-year student majoring in English and History.
songs of freedom
Afrikaner identity has been expressed through musical movements that stretch from Voëlvry to Bok van Blerk’s ‘De la Rey’; it has also been challenged by what has been labelled the ‘zef ’ movement. Amber Kriel looks at Afrikaans protest music and asks what its place is in contemporary South Africa.
n 2006, the peculiar name of an aspiring South African singer which invokes a bleating goat came to be a topic of controversy. Bok van Blerk rose to instant popularity amongst the Afrikaner youth with his rendition of ‘De la Rey’, originally written by fellow Afrikaans singers
Together with their compelling lyrics about critical issues regarding their Afrikaans identity, these comrades manage to breathe new life into the local scene Sean Else and Johan Vorster. After the release of the song, it was not uncommon to see white Afrikaans teenagers gathered around a braai, beer in left hand, right arm across the chest whilst they proudly bellow ‘De la Rey, De la Rey, sal jy die Boere kom lei? Generaal, generaal/soos een man sal ons om jou val’ (‘De la Rey, De la Rey, will you come to 24
lead the Boers? /General, general/as one man we will fall around you’). Is this merely a case of native nostalgia – misplaced and inconsequential? Perhaps it is rather the case that protest music takes on many forms in South Africa, as musicians from an array of different backgrounds find new sources of socio-political frustration. In the Afrikaans music scene, the Voëlvry movement of 1989 led by Koos Kombuis, Johannes Kerkorrel and Bernoldus Niemand, was an expression by those in opposition to the ruling Afrikaner regime. These artists attempted to re-characterise their Afrikaner identity during a period of national violence and instability. They did so with the use of irony, making a mockery of a dominating class of white Afrikaans-speaking males, such as those found in the higher echelons of government, in the meeting places of the Broederbond and at the heads of the dinner tables in their households. Who of that generation could forget Johannes Kerkorrel’s lyrics, shot through with bitterness: ‘Ons ry ‘n BMW/Ons gaan elke jaar oorsee/Moet ons alles verniet weggee?/ Polina maak vir die miesies nog tee!’ – ‘We drive a BMW/We go overseas every year/Do we have to give away
songs of freedom
everything for free?/ Polina, make the missus more tea!’ Despite facing adversity from the ruling Nationalist Party, the Voëlvry musicians managed to perform at Afrikaans universities such as Stellenbosch in front of large crowds of students who shared similar radical sentiments. With a good dose of alcohol, drugs and an intensified resentment towards the beliefs of the ruling party, these musicians presented a biting attack on Afrikaner identity. Veteran journalist and political commentator Max du Preez has dubbed this moment in the Afrikaner’s history as the ‘Boere Woodstock’ and observed that ‘It was a significant movement in every social, political, cultural and musical sense of the word’. Then came 1994 and Afrikaner protest music seemed to follow the stream of optimism in the wake of the first democratic elections. Yet this optimism quickly gave way to new struggles: the vision of a ‘rainbow nation’ seemed fraught, and criticism surfaced as it appeared that politicians were only after filling their own pockets. Furthermore, the AIDS epidemic and high rates of violent crime and unemployment did not do much to raise spirits. Koos Kombuis’s post-Apartheid music reflects this shared consciousness with fellow rockers and he sings that ‘the whole country is evil’ in a song titled ‘Blameer dit op Apartheid’ – ‘blame it on Apartheid’. About nine years ago five friends from Bellville made waves in the press after their first performance on stage. We know them as Fokofpolisiekar, a name carefully chosen to evoke an atmosphere of protest against militant surveillance in a ‘rebel-without-a-cause’ vein. With their ‘weagainst- the-world’ attitude, they address such issues as the stringencies of conservative Afrikaner identity, the inability of the African National Congress to amend poverty and violence, and the problem of being treated as foreigners in their own country. In ‘Brand Suid Afrika’ (‘Burn South Africa’), they sing: ‘For you knives lie and wait, in the garden outside your house’ and in ‘Antibiotika’ (‘Anti-biotics’), they vocalise their anxiety about feeling like ‘a tourist in the country of [their] birth.’ Annie Klopper, editor of Protea Boekhuis and biographer of Fokofpolisiekar, believes that ‘the rebellion gave a new identity to the language.’ Together with their compelling lyrics about critical issues regarding their Afrikaans identity, these comrades manage to breathe new life into the local scene with their punk rock tunes, memorable personas and defiant attitude, rocking out in their mother tongue with the message: ‘Kan jy jou idee van normaal by jou gat opdruk?’ (‘Can you stuff your idea of normal up your ass?’). Are these songs purely political frustration transposed into lyrics, or do they form part of a hidden agenda to generate anger and dissatisfaction? Considering the controversial ‘De la Rey’ in the context of increasing frustration at the displacement of Afrikaners in the new South Africa, Koos Kombuis acknowledges the impact the song has made on the psyche of conservative Afrikaners. However, he does not think that it played a significant role in flaring up oppressed emotions. Scenes of fans waving the old South African flag at Van Blerk’s concerts are discounted as occurrences for which the artist should not be held accountable. However, it is hard to ignore the fact that the word ‘boer’ frequently appears in the lyrics of Van Blerk’s
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songs and re-draws a blunt line around an identity that is inextricably linked to whiteness. Nevertheless, due to the Voëlvry movement which helped to invert the symbols of Afrikaner nationalism, it is now possible for Afrikaans musicians to reflect on new, widely convergent identities as a branch of South African popular culture. In the last two years musicians of what has been dubbed the ‘zef ’ (or low class) movement have risen to sudden popularity. Yet their fame has not come without its controversies. Pertinent to discussions about Die Antwoord and Jack Parow has been the way in which they play on the identity of ‘the poor Afrikaner’. Their mockery mode of self-representation is seemingly apolitical, yet arguably, their avoidance of any outspoken political agenda is in itself a political move. Their obvious attempt to avoid any Afrikaner nationalist expression – or even (like Koos Kombius) a protest against this expression, is a sign of their marked disregard of Afrikaner nationalist ‘high’ culture.
However, it is hard to ignore the fact that the word ‘boer’ frequently appears in the lyrics of Van Blerk’s songs and re-draws a blunt line around an identity that is inextricably linked to whiteness. Die Antwoord’s mockery of South African high culture has recently got them into trouble with a teaser trailer released on YouTube for their new album, Ten$ion. The trailer depicts band members Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er made up as figures from Jane Alexander’s ‘Butcher Boys’ sculptures. Aside from the artist’s request that they remove the teaser from the internet, and her subsequent liaison with her lawyers over copyright laws, the teaser has produced a fair amount of public outcry. Comments mostly centre around the way in which Die Antwoord has ‘butchered’ these iconic pieces by one of South Africa’s most famous resistance artists. Alexander’s lawyer, Martin Heller, stated that ‘Ms Alexander is concerned that Die Antwoord’s use of her work and its context might be publicly perceived as reflecting her own artistic intention. In creating the work, Ms Alexander referred to the dehumanising forces of Apartheid.’ These artists have dealt with the phenomenon of Afrikanerdom through a parodied disavowal of South African culture, staging association with the low class, or ‘zef ’ Afrikaner. Yet it seems they have taken their postmodern disavowal of a political agenda too far. Their mockery of Afrikaner nationalism with a play on the ‘poor Afrikaner’ is one thing, but their rather dubious use of acclaimed antiApartheid sculptures is another. The sculptures’ symbolism of the inhumanity of Apartheid cuts just a little too close to the bone to be used so flippantly. Indeed, they are famed for engendering a sinister presence: being in a room with the Butcher Boys at the Iziko National Gallery still gives most people a shiver up the spine. CTG
is a third-year student majoring in Media & Writing, Afrikaans and Politics.
songs of freedom
Spectres of Tupac I
Image courtesy of Teun Voeten
Jacob Claassens majored in Film & Media Production.
t’s not often that a hip hop concert is confused with an armed assault – but this is what happened in 1998, when more than a hundred children, all wearing shirts emblazoned with the face of recently deceased rapper Tupac Shakur, ransacked Kukuna, a small town in Sierra Leone. After the initial confusion, it soon became apparent that the children in question weren’t just abnormally violent rap fans, but child soldiers in the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The Tupac shirts were part of their uniform. The streams of cultural influence that flow across the planet sometimes pool in unlikely places. Tupac Shakur was a massively popular rapper, dealing with the familiar themes of inner-city hardship and race violence; since his death in 1996, over 75 million of his albums have been sold worldwide. Even so, for his image to be adapted as a uniform in a civil war halfway across the globe indicates he was more than just popular - he was a symbol, a guiding mythologue. Writer and academic Jeremy Herholdt explores the subject in his essay ‘The Afterlives of Tupac: Imagery and Alienation in Sierra Leone and Beyond’. Herholdt considers Tupac as an icon whose complexity, experiences and values have found resonance with, and have been taken up by, a generation of disaffected youths, particulary in Sierra Leone – although Herholdt notes similar resonances in such disparate locales as Norway, the UAE and Moldavia. The talented and controversial rapper was only twenty-five years old when he was shot by unknown assailants in 1996. Tupac came from a politically conscious background, his mother and many of his relatives having been involved with the Black Panthers, and his upbringing was one marred by the hallmarks of inner-city poverty. His mother continues to struggle with an addiction to crack cocaine. Tupac commented on his childhood: ‘I was born not to make it, but I did…[like a] rose that grew from the concrete.’ By the time of his death, Tupac had starred in eleven films, and had released six studio albums – nine more would be released posthumously, along with three documentary films containing archival footage. With so much material more than a decade since his death, the joke is that Tupac is still alive somewhere and coining it. At the 2012 Coachella music festival in California, a hologram of Tupac rapped on stage, alongside two old friends, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. His early records (2pacalypse Now; Strictly 4 My Niggaz) were orientated towards socially conscious topics – police brutality, inequality and racism – while his later material dealt with his hedonistic lifestyle and his paranoia around his own survival during the inter-coastal hip hop rivalry. Tupac attained an aura of invincibility after surviving being shot five times (twice in the head) in 1992. Following the shooting, the West Coast and East Coast hip hop scenes developed a fierce rivalry as Tupac accused former friend, Biggie Smalls, of having been involved. Given the extent to which Tupac’s career was embedded in East Coast America in the nineties, it is remarkable that his work should find its most active resurrection in Sierra Leone.
Rocked by civil war between 1991 and 2002, Sierra Leone’s history has been characterised by poor governance and corruption; the last head of state before the outbreak of war, Joseph Momoh, rose to power being the only candidate in a one-party election. The RUF has never espoused a particularly clear ideological position, besides a desire to overthrow the government broadly responsible for the poverty and destitution in Sierra Leone – a desire that won them much popular support, while smart warfare secured many of the lucrative diamond fields the group used to finance themselves. Volunteers who joined the RUF (in the early stages of the war - conscription later became the norm) were, as Herholdt describes them ‘the most marginalised of the rural and urban poor’ who had very little education and no opportunities for ‘social mobility’ besides the outlet that the RUF offered. The atrocities child soldiers commit as part of their indoctrination are well-documented: having to murder or rape members of their communities or families or be killed themselves. In this manner, these children are alienated from their families, and any moral resistance is systematically ironed out through continuous exposure to, and participation in, violence and murder. Pervasive drug abuse helps distract from the pain. The rebel army becomes the new provider and new family; the gun becomes a power symbol, whereby death can be dished out indiscriminately. Tupac’s music found a strong resonance here. Combatants perceived his experience as echoing their own: young men reacting against hardship and zero opportunity, where violence and despair conflate into self-reinforcing angst. Soldiers would have identified with such tracks as the lyrical ‘Hail Mary,’ where: I’m a ghost in these killin’ fields … Evil lurks, enemies see me flee Activate my hate, let it break to the flame Set trip, empty out my clip; never stop to aim While these lyrics reflected the anxieties and stress of the battle mindset, Tupac, in his ambivalence, offers another side that could contribute to national reconciliation. Move on be strong with unity ‘Cause that’s the only way to build communities from ‘Knowledge Drop’ Tupac existed in a number of configurations - vengeful gangster, artist, social activist, hedonist and introverted paranoiac come first to mind. That breadth of experience will never cease to be relevant; given the growing population of youth disenchanted with the global status quo - one in which they feel they have been marginalised - many more may come to identify with Tupac’s specific brand of social consciousness. Indeed, everyone can gain something from him- as the man implores us in ‘Knowledge Drop’: ‘never stop, open your mind.’ CTG
Paint by numbers
We all have five distinct senses. Or, do we? Rob Attwell delves into the colourful world of synaesthesia. It will leave you wondering where one sense ends and another begins.
ere’s a question for you: what do Stephen Fry, Nikola Tesla, Lady Gaga and Beethoven have in common? There is the obvious answer: they are all famous cultural icons. Stephen Fry, the great, dry British comedic actor and quiz- showhost. Nikola Tesla, the brilliant, if underappreciated mad scientist. Then there is Lady Gaga, the revolutionary pop icon and destroyer of childhood Kermit the Frog memories. Finally, there is Beethoven, the great composer who continued to write and perform regardless of the fact that he was deaf. However, they lived in different historic periods and were famous for different reasons. What could they possibly have in common? Well, that point about Beethoven going deaf is important. All of the above individuals were, or are, synaesthetes. Synaesthesia is a neurological condition in which sensory stimulation can trigger an automatic, simultaneous response in one or more of the other senses or indeed, an entirely different cognitive association. The five human senses are, of course, sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. For a synaesthete, sight and sound, or taste and sight can become meshed together into a single cognitive experience. The most common form of synaesthesia is ‘grapheme’ or ‘colour synaesthesia.’ In this form, synaesthetes perceive sounds, such as musical notes, as having a very specific colour. Laura Rosser, a synaesthete who appeared on the documentary series Medical Mysteries, described this experience in relation to piano cords. ‘E-flat is turquoise. Very warm turquoise,’ Rosser said. ‘F- sharp is yellowgreen.’ When Rosser plays many notes together, she said the colours ‘sort of merge into each other.’ Additionally, with grapheme synaesthesia, numbers and letters take on colours. Ms Rosser said that her ‘twos are orange and fives are red.’ Crista Kosenko, another person to appear in the documentary reported that her ‘twos are yellow and fives are red.’ In the documentary, Rosser took part in a test. Instruments were set up to monitor her brain waves and she was presented with a set emblazoned with black letters and numbers. She recorded the colours she saw. Amazingly, the sections of her brain which perceive the colours she described lit up on the scanners. What is remarkable about this is that it proves that her brain makes very powerful visual connections which are not obvious to nonsynaesthetes, suggesting that, somehow, her brain is just wired differently. There are two schools of thought on how synaesthesia manifests. The first argues that synaesthesia is passed on through genetics. Simply put, it runs in the family. However, Dr
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David Brang of the University of California (San Diego) has found that children exhibit different forms of synaesthesia than their parents which ‘complicates the picture and hints at the idea that more than one gene is involved.’ Another study at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, has identified chromosome 16 as holding the key to this riddle. They have not, as yet, identified the specific gene (or genes) which cause it. The second theory is that all people are born with it. As babies, our brains made millions of new synaptic connections every second and we lived in a fantastic sensory maelstrom. As we grow older and (presumably) experience more, these synaptic connections are trimmed down and become the five traditional human senses. For some reason, this process occurs differently in synaesthetes.
For a synaesthete, sight and sound, or taste and sight can become meshed together into a single cognitive experience Dr David Eagleman’s work has found that, “Synaesthesia waxes and wanes depending on if a person is extremely tired or if they’re on drugs.” Dr Eagleman argues that people who are not diagnosed synaesthetes can experience similar effects when on hallucinogens or suffer severe damage to one sense and, consequently, develop another. (Remember Beethoven’s deafness?) This being said, Eagleman’s findings reflect extreme cases taking place in exceptional circumstances. For most synaesthetes, like Ms Rosser, it is simply a part of everyday life – which is what makes it unusual. Synaesthesia is indeed a phenomenon – but one must be wary of casting it as a neurological disorder. While unusual, it is not actually harmful. In fact, I think it sounds pretty cool. Other famous icons whose merging senses influenced their work include Vladimir Nabokov (letters and colours); Jimi Hendrix (guitar chords and colours) and Pythagoras (numbers and colours). While synaesthesia is relatively uncommon, it does affect four percent of the total world population. That’s now four percent of seven billion people – which is still quite a large number. Not only this, but synaesthetes challenge how we explore our senses and, in turn, the world. Scientists have only begun to catch a glimpse of what our minds are capable of and synaesthetes, with their super-senses, may be part of the key. CTG
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
is an Honours student in History.
Fergus Turner questions whether it’s just a catchy song title or whether the term’s philosophical roots run deeper.
he term ‘One Love’ often gets deployed to gesture towards a particular philosophy or position held by ex-hippies, artists, protestors, the disillusioned youth, charismatic political figures, and just about anyone who’s ever been frustrated by the dominant hegemonies of the modern world; as such, the phrase has a plethora of different connotations for each would-be counter-culture. That being said, the accepted meaning figures ‘one love’ as a call for unity and a deep understanding of respect between all people: a love that overrides differences and divisions that arise from borders, race, religion, gender, language and social position. The term was maybe best represented by such musicians as Bob Marley, John Lennon and Curtis Mayfield.
The conceptualisation of One Love can sow the seeds for lifestyles that are in themselves examples of alternatives
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
is a third-year student majoring in Politics, Philosophy and Spanish.
In 1977, Bob Marley & The Wailers released perhaps their best-known album, Exodus – which is known chiefly for containing the song ‘One Love’. Marley wrote the song amidst the divisive circumstances of the 1976 Jamaican elections, frustrated with the human cost of political pettiness. The song derives inspiration from Curtis Mayfield’s 1965 ‘People Get Ready’. Marley tried to retain a neutral position in his piece, offering whatever support he could to the less fortunate people of Jamaica. The lyrics of the song call for the unity of people and the preparation for a struggle to fight a ‘Holy Armageddon’. One Love, as a philosophy, seems perhaps unduly simple; ‘one’ referring to unity, and ‘love’ to beneficence, kinship or desire. Can it be sustained as an actual philosophy, or is it just a catchy song’s refrain? No one has laid down any concrete philosophical tenets – and even if they have tried there are others in the movement who have contradicted them. The catch is that One Love isn’t meant to be especially intellectual – it’s meant to appeal even to those who haven’t benefitted from a first class education. Furthermore, much of its appeal lies in its brevity - because
the beauty is in its inclusiveness, rather than doctrinal strictures. And paucity of content doesn’t mean it isn’t a ‘real philosophy’ – only that it is concentrated in one short, dense phrase. One Love could be accused of relying too much on abstract intuition or emotion, rather than logic - but it could as easily be argued that the emphasis on emotion is the point. As any philosophy should, One Love flows into all aspects of our lives – be these political, spiritual, or sexual. However, the ambiguity of the concept has led to multiple deviations from what Marley originally intended. Marley was a Rastafari, a member of a religious movement that preaches a peaceful way of life, informed by the PanAfricanism of a region with a history marred by colonialism and slavery. Other musicians, like John Lennon, drew on the spiritualism of the East when generating his take on the philosophy of One Love. This can be contrasted with the attempts at communal living of the 1970s, which were in some respects far more idealistic in their scope – regarding human nature with an optimism far beyond the beneficent, but practical, position of One Love. Add to this the conflation of One Love with Free Love, a line between the tangible philosophy and all-out hedonism being further blurred by the lifestyles of the leaders of the movement, and One Love becomes deeply difficult to chart accurately. In general though, musicians of the One Love era sought to give a voice to the oppressed. Their music represented the hope that love, unity, and peace were possible in a world teetering on the edge of the Cold War and wars of the ‘establishment’ as in Vietnam. One Love embodies much of the protest of the 1960s and 1970s, as both a political and a philosophical stance that expressed the counter cultures of the Western world. Restless and confused youths reveled in its idealism versus the conservatism of the ruling generation – worried as it was about Communism, setting up missiles in Cuba and conscripting young men for South-East Asian wars. The suggestion of change and the rallying of communal values are central functions in protest music. The philosophy of One Love as expressed by these musicians and artists, is this suggestion of another way of being – a different way of interacting, and a gentle protest that suggests healthier human values to a seemingly sick society. The conceptualisation of One Love can sow the seeds for lifestyles that are in themselves examples of alternatives, contradicting and protesting the systems from which dissonance arises. The passivity inherent in movements that apply the sentiment of One Love could render them impractical and ineffective. This is shown by the vast host of social movements and sub-groups with interests in advancing new ways of living but never achieving their lofty transformative objectives. One Love, as Marley sang it, was a call to action, an inspiration for societal processes to facilitate change and development in society. Practically acknowledging differences and accommodating for them may be what One Love and Marley wished for the world. Love, in this case, being the celebration of differences and affirming of core commonalities, not the naïve supposition that we are all alike and should strive for sameness. One Love is what one makes of it – so make it an action. CTG
Let us compare mythologies
Jess Richards explores the relationships of folk icons Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen with their own folk – the Jews. ‘I corresponded with a famous rabbi But my teacher caught sight of one of my letters And silenced me. ‘’Dear Rabbi,’’ I wrote him for the last time, ‘’I do not have the authority or understanding to speak of these matters. I was just showing off. Please forgive me. Your Jewish brother, Jikan Eliezer.’ Leonard Cohen
he letter above was written by Leonard Cohen, dressed in robes and practicing Zen Buddhism at Mount Baldy Zen Centre in 1994. The humility of Cohen is familiar, and the congruence of the short, clear prose – but the spiritual contradictions sit uncomfortably. Cohen is paired frequently with Bob Dylan - as two poets of rock n roll, or as the voices of the New Left generation; the only time I’ve stumbled across their other commonality, their shared Jewish heritage, is in Jewish magazines, newspapers or blogs. Disappointingly, articles such as Tangled up in Jews, and similarly specific blogs, seem focused on pulling at straws with close readings of Dylan’s lyrics for references to Torah verses. Of course, Dylan and Cohen are not the first publicly recognised Jewish artists, writers or activists that have embraced alternative cultural and religious practices, either pragmatically or not – but as two incredibly prominent figures of the 60s and 70s, who negotiated the boundaries between individual, poet and public icon, the absence of Jewish affiliation is felt as strongly as its presence would have been. Dylan and Cohen held their respective crowds captivated; people sat transfixed in concert halls, next to radios, at student rallies. Listeners weren’t responding to prophesying or political fervour, but to the artists’ probing anger and despondency. As Cohen disavowed the term protest music, Dylan scorned it, even as he spoke for the cresting wave of the New Left generation. Dylan’s ‘Masters of War,’ ‘With God on Our Side’ and ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, and Cohen’s The Partisan represent a generation’s politicisation. Can we locate a specific agenda there? Perhaps their poetry necessarily included social commentary as much as anything else – or perhaps, as David Boucher suggests of the Beat philosophy, they ‘wanted everyone to be like them, which is not quite the same as wanting to change the world.’ Intentionally political or not, the artists’ rise to public prominence meant that any existential positions got elevated to the political. Hence Robert Zimmerman changing his name to Bob Dylan – claimed to be an aesthetic homage to major influence, Woody Guthrie – takes on wider significance. If anyone was waiting for a reference to the Six Day War in Israel in 1967, or to the shift in the Jewish Left of the same period, they would be sorely disappointed. Guthrie’s death in 1967 was likely of more consequence to Dylan at the time. If anything, Dylan’s association with Jewishness came from external pressures – public interest
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in his Jewish ancestry rose in the early 1970s, with rumours attaching the musician to the Jewish Defense League. Dylan reacted to this by claiming born again Christendom - one of his many contrary reactions to public opinion. When labelled a protest musician in the 60s, he moved away from social commentary in his lyrics; after being called a folk musician he traded his acoustic guitar for an electric. Dylan’s reluctance to adopt any position for long enough to be labelled, rendered a Jewish constant impossible for his philosophy and his career. This is not to say that Dylan was beyond Jewish identification – as fans were shocked to discover in 1991, when Dylan’s acceptance speech, on receiving the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement, expressed strongly Zionist sentiments. He left the crowd with a quotation from Psalm 27: ‘Even if I were so depraved that my own mother and father would abandon me to my own devices, God would still gather me up and believe in my ability to mend my ways.’ A haggard looking Dylan then left the stage. No assumptions regarding his relationship with anything – with Jewish tradition and culture, and especially not with American Jewish identity – seemed to obtain. What of the American Jewish population at the time? The The Student Democratic Society of the 60s 60s hadhad a disproStudent Democratic Society of the a disportionate amount of of Jewish proportionate amount Jewishmembers membersdedicated dedicatedto to the American Civil Rights Movement. Mark Rudd, a Chairman of the society during this period, offers the suggestion that the designation of ‘outsider’ was what allowed the third generation American Jewish population to cast a critical eye on the institution of American liberalism - and I would be anxious to make the claim that Dylan and Cohen’s Jewish heritage made them critical outsiders. Leonard Cohen was never called a protest musician – and was thus never criticised for his lack of social commentary on Jewish oppression; yet his lyrics are laden with religious exploration. Cohen, when questioned about his Zen Buddhism, suggested that it in no way contradicted Jewish theology; and, in a later interview, he affirmed belief in only two things - god Godand andsex: sex: ‘If God is left out of sex it becomes pornographic, if sex is left out of God it becomes self-righteous and pious.’ Somehow Cohen seems to have located a position filtered by multiple theologies, linking Jewish mysticism, Zen Buddhism and sexual exploration, without being made a spokesperson for any of them. Cohen, never hailed as a protest musician, was excused from having to champion of a political cause; Dylan’s identities and philosophies were too slippery for any claim of advocacy, Jewish or otherwise. If Cohen is correct in suggesting that poetry is a ‘verdict, rather than an intention’ then perhaps it is the audience that is responsible here, digging up – actively or passively – reasons for placing the poets in the position of spokespeople for a given religion, for folk music, for liberation; for Christianity, for Hasidic Judiaism, for New Left liberalism, for fashion, for sex. We can only continue to compare notes. CTG
Image courtesy of Rama / wikimedia commons
has an honours degree in History.
Can protest music change the world? Xavier Van Der Zandt asks about the role of protest music in a world dominated by Sony and Simon Cowell.
here’s a backstage scene in Led Zeppelin’s film, The Song Remains The Same (1976) - wedged between live concert footage and fantasy sequences featuring gun-toting pig men and mountain hermits where singer Robert Plant seems to be speaking about the hangover at the back end of the 1960s acid trip. He doesn’t quite match the eloquence of Hunter S. Thompson’s famous passage in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where the great Dr. Gonzo nostalgically wonders about the ‘high and beautiful wave’ that had crested over hippy San Francsico and barely left a water mark – and what that wave meant. No, the wild-eyed, elfin-hipped singer with the remarkably bad teeth is sardonically blunt: ‘That feeling that’s left everybody, the cosmic energy, everybody goes yeeeah… BASH’.
“It can brighten people, and it can feed their imagination. It can also pacify, it can placate and distract”
Illustration by Greg Bakker
Xavier Van Der Zandt
is an Honours student in English Literature
With a gestural left hook that passes through the smokey atmosphere of the Madison Square Garden dressing-room, he punches out the wind that had been inhaled by such counter-cultural acts as the Grateful Dead, Jimmy Hendrix and the Doors. It had been a counter-cultural revolution which would come to be seen by many in the cynical 70s as nothing but tie-dye swept up in hot air and pot smoke. It is a criticism that has probably bedevilled Western art since people began using it to speak out against those in power: you can make people tap their feet but it doesn’t mean they’ll take a stand. From one point of view it might seem like the days of revolutionary music inspiring the masses are over– nobody knows about the Internationale anymore, and the kinds of African oral poets who held tribal kings accountable to their communities have long since been drowned out by the radio. Sandi Thom looks rather confusedly back at those days in her 2007 hit ‘I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair)’ – although it’s worth noting that all she does is wish that she was a flower-haired punk rocker, simultaneously breathing in the air of both 1977 and 1969. There are obvious criticisms: flowers and leather together make for poor fashion and even if time travel were possible the public would never know about it. Also, where does she propose to breathe this revolutionary air– surely not in Apartheid South Africa, Maoist China or preUnification Germany? One might suggest to Ms. Thom that instead of wishing she were in the revolutionary moment of a different time, perhaps she ought to get involved
in one of her own. An alternate view to this, of course, would point to the inefficacy of such would-be-revolutionary movements as Occupy Wall Street – or as Malcolm Gladwell very validly did in a 2010 New Yorker article, criticise t h e social media slacktivism that predomin a t e s many contemporary global protests. We find ourselves picking blood and hair from under our nails at the best of times, as we try to make sense of the tacked-together fragments of a world that is reaching breaking point or has either always or never been broken in the first place. And one has to wonder where musicians, where artists in general, fit in with their three minute songs and poetry. This seems especially pertinent in a context as vexed as South Africa’s, where we can only distantly apprehend – and even then, in horror - what might have happened had people not picked up their guns and fought their way to the negotiation table. Can music change the world? Well, I would propose that emphatically, yes it can – and definitively, no it can’t. In 2009 an internet campaign in the UK tried to ensure that Simon Cowell’s latest X Factor reality show’s winning pop-star muppet would not dominate the Christmas singles charts of that year, and saw Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name Of ’ topple Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ from its oddly-dressed perch. Some critics pointed to the futility of the campaign, even in success– both artists were ultimately signed to Sony, and Cowell would indirectly benefit from the proceeds anyway. The band’s vocalist, Zach De La Rocha, a politically involved leftist, praised the initiative however, as proceeds from the approximately 200 000 singles went to Shelter, a charity for the homeless. In the same year, American rapper Immortal Technique dedicated proceeds from his album Revolutionary Vol. III to building an orphanage in Afghanistan. These artists have failed to foment the kind of mass social revolution they sing about and yet it is the intangible music of protest which enabled them to make tangible change. Immortal Technique puts it well on the HipHopdx website: ‘To some people this music is just entertainment, and even if it is that for many people, entertainment can inspire, it can brighten people, and it can feed their imagination. It can also pacify, it can placate and distract. It can shadow and mask real problems around us that we cannot see. But for me this is not about entertainment, it has always been a mechanism for delivering so much more’. The deeper question should be: can the world be changed? The answers, I believe, lie in the interstices between songs and beyond the bounds of these glossy pages. CTG
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The Centre for Film and Media Studies congratulates the Cape Town Globalist on this issue
• Film and the Environment • Environmental Documentary • Wildlife Documentary
If you care about animals and the environment, you’d be interested to know that the Centre for Film and Media Studies offers the following postgraduate courses:
The Centre also offers Honours programmes in the following:
At the Honours and MA level, the Media Theory and Practice programme allows students to specialise in:
• Film Studies
• Media Research
• Television Drama: Theory and Practice
• Political Communication
• Advertising, Branding and New Media
• Media Theory and Practice
New courses that started in 2012 include:
Making the Critical Documentary, convened by Paul Weinberg Creative Non-Fiction, to be taught by Antony Altbeker, Justin Fox and André Wiesner Crisis Communications
For a full list of courses, visit the Centre’s website, www.cfms.uct.ac.za