A Culture of Poverty

A Culture of Poverty

This is just an observation I’ve made after a few months living in Malaysia after nearly 2 decades in Malawi, and its based on my own personal opinions. Well, Malaysia is a country rich in culture. It has a majority Malay, Indian and Chinese people allowing for a rich and diversified populace with a shit ton of personality (the many uses of lah/can). In the beginning I thought that this was a Malaysia thing. It must be like this because its a melting pot of cultures, right? Well, I began to notice that other students had diverse cultures as well. I really noticed it during the Nowruz festival at my university, where the Central Asian student body converged to celebrate a popular holiday back in their countries. To some, it may have been a normal, almost boring occurrence, but for me it was a chance to see something new, and with my love of learning and the humanities, it intrigued me a great deal (and there was free food), but it also got me thinking. What did I really know about my own culture? Where were our festivals, cultural quirks and exciting oddities. Our many traditional foods, or street delicacies, and our tribal mysticism. I thought it odd that so many other countries, even our neighbours had such diverse cultures compared to Malawi’s. Such interesting histories and backstories. I almost felt ashamed that I could tell you more about the Aztecs and Egyptians than I could my own people.

This deep seated guilt found its way into my heart and greatly unsettled me. I tried to calm my heart by assuring myself that it was just a me thing. My knowledge of Chichewa is shaky, at best. It would be understandable that I barely knew anything about Chewa, or Malawian culture, but this did nothing to help. I am a history buff after all. So, I had to try and find answers, draw up theories and attempt to understand what my actual questions were, and what I know about Malawi. Maybe because Malawians are usually quaint to a fault, however my knowledge of any traditional…stuff falls to the Nyau culture, and even then only because of my Dad, the books he keeps, and my own personal experiences with them (don’t get me started.)

Remembering old conversations with my older sisters, I also realized that there are ab abundance of traditional stories and folklore, however people have simply seized to tell them, favouring perhaps the Christian stories from the Bible. A regrettable loss, in my opinion at least. After a lot of digging, I came closer to my final conclusion by realizing that the further down we go, the less people try to remember the things of the past. This is well documented in many places, but has occurred much too much in Malawi. Our traditional stories and history is replaced with Western stories and media. Is this a bad thing? No, but gradually forgetting your culture completely is terrible.  So, and bear with me here, why is our culture so nonexistent? Well, one of the things I realized is that we’re poor as fuck (no shit Sherlock). And many people around me in Malaysia don’t know how poor we actually are, but Hells are we poor. The wage gap has to be so big right now that there is probably no middle class. Of the 15.9 million Malawians, about 12 million are living below the international poverty line ($1.25 a day)  and the average student to teacher ratio for primary schools is 96:1. But how does this affect culture? Well, really, how can you be celebrating festivals, and basking in a prosperous and fortunate life when you’re so far in the gutter that you can’t see past your own hunger. With the state the country is in, even the wealthy experience a level of discomfort that ranges from irritating, to simply unbearable, whether it be water shortages, or electrical outages. There is nothing to celebrate really.

And when the celebrations roll in, they are usually the usual religious festivals that have taken root in whichever country you’re in, be it Christmas or Diwali.  And most well to do families shy away from the traditional aspects of their culture, instead filling it with Western objects that indicate wealth and prosperity. When you walk into a Malawian house, apart from the food and the language being spoken, there is so little about it that is Malawian. And who can blame them really? Adopting a Western stance can give your children, and your family a better way to live, with things that can make their lives better in a country so abjectly poor. So our generation sticks with other festivals and traditions, shying away from our own, because any attempt to truly connect with our own, means embracing a culture of poverty, corruption, stupidity and sickness. And when it comes time for us to either come home from studying abroad, or find jobs, the torrent of despair and hopelessness drives us away, leaving Malawi with a Brain Drain that will affect us for decades to come until something drastic is done. Daliso Chaponda, who recently received the Golden buzzer is a British-Malawian comedian with some hilarious jokes. But there was a reason he was joking about UNICEF in the UK rather than at the French Cultural Center in Blantyre. He understands true poverty, and he’s seen it, and the difference between poor, and not so poor.. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps chipping away at our cultural and personal identities until it may become truly difficult to really truly call yourself Malawian. Do I have a solution? No, I’m just a critical and broke college student writing blogs in class instead of paying attention to my lecturers, but I write because it hurts more when I stand by idly.

So now, when someone asks me whether I can show them my culture I say “sure, as long as you don’t mind a culture of poverty.”

 

New Slaves and the Cage of our Own Making

New Slaves and the Cage of our Own Making

Slavery. The catalyst responsible for so many atrocities, human rights violations, and social problems in the world, even today. Whilst slavery has been going on for millennia, the most recent large scale slavery trade, the Atlantic Slave Trade has impacted the world the most. And I get it, people are still butt-hurt over it. They still bring it up even now, perhaps because taking slaves based on the colour of one’s skin is one of the cruelest things ever done. However, I must say, its been going on for a while. I mean, not the colour thing, but slaving people based on prejudices. The Roman empire took slaves because they were considered barbinarium, barbarians (take that Mr. Goodson, I still remember some Latin). The Islamic invasions resulted in thousands of Indians being abducted as slaves. The Tang dynasty of China purchased Western slaves from the Radanite Jews. I could give many more examples, but basically, in a time when war was the rule and people needed cheap labour to build, expand and grow, it must’ve been a viable choice. I mean, it did take us thousands of years to get from irrigation to the engine. Note, I’m not defending slavery, I’m just acknowledging its existence, and getting over it. Most of the major slave trades were abolished centuries ago with the advancement of technology and enlightening ideas. Which is why we (mostly) don’t have slavery in today’s world…or do we?

But wait, is that an indignant voice complaining about the African slave trade that led to the subsequent cotton farms, Civil War and Segregation in the US I hear? Asking people to “check their privilege”, and acknowledge the sins of their ancestors, even if their ancestors may have had nothing to do with the ownership of slaves. Well Snowflake, I hate to break it to you, but the sad truth is that the majority of slaves that were ripped apart from their homes and families, were taken by other Africans. Before the Europeans even landed in Africa, the Africans were slaving their own people, just like so many other civilizations and empires. Just like the Mongols, and the Arab Kingdoms, and the Romans.

However, what makes it even more horrendous, is the fact the Africans were more often than not the middlemen in selling slaves to the Europeans. If you think that the Europeans marched into Africa, looting, pillaging and raping the slaves out of their homes, you would only be partly right. If they did, then our history books would talk about wars between Natives and gun wielders much like the near destruction of Native American tribes, or the Spanish conquest of South America. However, that wasn’t the case in Africa. The Europeans had no need to go into the extremely dangerous wilds of disease ridden Africa where sickness, infection and wildlife could kill them easier than any arrow could, when there was an abundance slaves waiting for them at the shores. Not all, but many African kingdoms grew rich from slavery.  In 1750, King Tegbesu made £250,000 a year selling people into slavery. Most kings saw slaves as criminals or POWs, so in exchange for riches, selling a few deplorables was an easy choice. However, demand increased, and so did conflict, and wars were conducted to take more slaves, and thus began a cycle of war, poverty and evil that we all know today, because in some parts of Africa, slavery is still conducted, and not spoken of. And once all the men were gone from Africa, it became easy prey for colonisation.

The blame however, is not to fall solely on Africans. This plague was incited on both sides, with the promise of gold and guns being the vice Europeans and Americans needed to keep the slaves rolling in. And one must never forget the horrendous state that slaves were kept in once they endured the long journey to America. However, never have I heard African-Americans say that Africans should own up to their mistakes, and I have never heard of it taught in schools, perhaps out of shame? Both sides must own up to their crimes if we are to truly forgive and forget the past, because in more ways than one, we are still slaves today, and race is no deciding factor.

We are slaves, but the stakes have risen, and our minds and ideas are what they are enslaving. And it is scary, yes, and it may be easier to cry “black lives matter!”, rather than see the truth, that people, no matter where, have been selling each other into slavery. And that black people,who believe they were completely wronged sold other black people. And we are still slaves because we don’t see the truth in matters like this, and by wearing our victimization on our sleeves, we are allowing the media to use us as an agenda against whomever they don’t like. We aren’t making ourselves stronger, we’re making ourselves weaker. Instead of looking past all the horrors of our past, we continue to scream them out and say “look at me, pity me!” How the hell would I treat you as an equal when you insist that you are insisting you aren’t. It isn’t the case for everyone, but I believe that true strength comes from the ability to forge forward, irrespective of the past. To remember, but not rely on past hurts in order to get your way. Hard work and determination. In a world where everyone will take advantage of whatever weakness you have, or feel you have, to push their own agendas, whether you are gay, black, white, it is imperative to not let them take a hold and do what they have always, and will always do. Divide us. With black lives matter supporters screaming death to cops, and rioters at Berkely harming unarmed civilians, it is clear the media, or the establishment is getting their way. It’s clear from what I’m seeing from the mainstream media that our freedom is speech is being cut, our own views are being hijacked. We’re being told what to think, what to feel, and what to do, even if it goes against conventional logic, history or the well-being of the people they preach to.

And the saddest thing for me to see, is African people being reined in by this. I have seen some people solely acknowledge the US’ problems while completely ignoring their own country’s. So few Africans barely batted an eye at the Garissa attack, or the regular immolation of LGBT people in countries like Uganda, while expressing the utmost support during the Orlando shooting or London terror attack. Express your sympathy, but don’t ignore your home, because it needs you, now more than ever. With corrupt governments, and sub-par standards of living. Especially you, my fellow Malawians, where the wage gap is so high, there can’t possibly be a middle-class. We need to stop this slavery of minds and desecration of resources in our own borders, and we can’t do it when you’re jumping onto so many other boats. And I could go on and on about the things that plague us, but I’m sure you’re all too familiar with them. In our own ways, we can get out of this cage we’ve built for ourselves. We just need to arm ourselves with knowledge, and courage.

As usual, feel free to debate or ask me anything. Share the message if you want, and don’t be afraid to question learn, and explore.

http://takimag.com/article/did_africans_sell_africans_into_slavery_lets_ask_some_africans_jim_goad/print#axzz4eNzgADf3

The Cancer of Safe Spaces

The Cancer of Safe Spaces

This’ll be a long one folks. Buckle up.
As I become ever so slightly more mature, I find myself noticing more and more trends and trivialities in our society. Gone were the days of youthful ignorance, where nothing in the news would bother me, mainly because everything I loved and held dear was relatively unaffected by all the political or social upheaval going on at the time. And my biggest loves at the time were anime/manga, comics and gaming. I may have mentioned briefly that I am a huge geek. That would be the understatement of the century. Asking me to choose between my favourite character in any of the three would be like asking me which child I would rather kill. My escapades began with a PS One my dad got for my sisters, but which they obviously didn’t care for. We also had a SNES and Saga Genesis, all of which I would play often with my older brother whenever we were at my dad’s place. However, the first time I truly loved playing a videogame was when my dad bought me the PS4 for my fourth birthday. Playing the Ratchet and Clank Demo brought me unfathomable joy, but that was nothing compared to the utter elation I felt when I popped in Jak 3. It was a beautiful “open world” action adventure game with amazing humour, and a daring and dark main character. The art was cartoony, but at the same time, you could see the levels of detail and appreciation that went into the levels, and gameplay elements that the game had to offer. This, arguably could have kickstarted my love of the arts, as videogames, the best tend to meld the best of the arts into a playable package, design, music, dialogue, themes, and more. It’s hard to emphasise the level of detail and commitment that goes into games and I could say that it’s one of the most artistically free mediums of expression. You have almost every genre, every trope, every representation of culture and so many new ideas being generated that there’s something for everyone, and that’s not counting the existing legendary franchises already existing like The Legend of Zelda, The Witcher, Fallout and more, but I’ll be talking about them another time.

That being said though, my favourite mediums and sources of enjoyment have been hijacked by the dreaded Social Justice Warriors. Imbeciles that become indignant at anything they feel might offend them in any way. They are usually feminazis, or ignorant virtue signallers who think bashing something just because their favourite youtuber or blogger complained about them will get them “good citizen” points. What do I mean by this? Well my strongest gripe has been with one Anita Sarkeesian, a woman who has made it her personal mission to denounce, and change sexism in videogames. This, is a value which I find admirable. The equality that should be found in both sexes, and good representation which should be given to women. However, Anita Sarkeesian, whilst having a fundamental understanding of videogames, has done very little to appeal to the very mixed and diverse gaming community. She has continued to alienate and insult the community, displaying her lack of knowledge and biased opinions on videogames, failing to name games that have done amazing things for the series. For years now, purer RPGs have given players the choice between a male and female character. There are many videogames with a female main character such as Tomb Raider, which was released more than a decade ago, The Last of Us and more recently, the amazing Horizon Zero Dawn. More recently, she has criticised the amazing Breath of the Wild for portraying the princess Zelda as a “damsel in distress”. An unbased accusation to say the least. For someone who looks at things from one perspective, and doesn’t record her own gameplay, meaning that she doesn’t even play the games that she critiques, she is simply an unwanted scavenger leeching off one of the most versatile and egalitarian form of entertainment around.

Now, switching to comics. I developed a love of comics from the time that my cousin showed me a Namor comic. And as I’ve grown and read many comics growing up, more mature and more diverse I am exposed to many ideas. Notable mentions are V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Blackest Night, The Sandman series, Death of a Family and Marvel’s Civil War. I truly love the writing and different art that goes into the pages of the comics. The story can be told from dialogue, as well as the art, and the impression it can leave on you can be emotionally shocking. Especially if you read amazing graphic novels. And thus, the comic book industry has prided itself in its consistent and sharp writing. Something that keeps readers coming back from more. Now, due to the current state of the media, comic books are being filled with utter trash. A good example would be the cancellation of the Killing Joke variant comic book cover for Batgirl. Which was a huge blow to the comic book community as it showed blatant disrespect for the fans, and free speech. And while DC reeled from the hijacking of its comics by SJWs, they have recovered with their Rebirth series. However, Marvel, which is my personal favourite publication company is falling behind in sales due to its SJW swivel. The writing has become abhorrent, the characters are being replaced left and right, and it is clear to see how Marvel is marketing their comics. “Our readers are misogynistic, racist and cisphobic white privileged males who need trashy comics and more diversity whether they like it or not.” My mum taught me how to respect women, and anyone else for that matter, and I don’t need you to tell me how to do that.

And that’s the thing, this leftist crowd is acting  like there has never been diversity in comics. There always has. Has tit always been handled well…? No, the 70s were particularly bad, however, comics have never been a single shade. And neither have games, or anime, or manga, as each form of entertainment is shaped by its culture, and many cultures have advanced significantly. Trust me, some Englishmen could sell their wives up to the 1700s. I enjoy the things I love. And I love to talk about them. These people screaming from their safe spaces, denying people the opportunity to express their ideas, and denying free speech are encroaching upon my hobbies and passions, and I hate that more than anything. Filling the media with their conceited bullshit and having their heads so far up their asses, they can’t even hear the nonsense they spew. Society has always benefitted from the exchange of ideas. The discussion and the debate that allows us to become better as people, and create  better things. And from these safe spaces and banners, riots and demonstrations, they hide from the truth and spread their lies and skewed ideas of society to you, screaming as loud as they can.

And I write this to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you. That your favourite forms of entertainment aren’s hijacked and rewritten. Always be mindful of what you read and watch, especially on social media. Some agendas are worse than ever, and fake news will always be prevalent *cough cough, BLM*, however it is up to us to  challenge the ideas we hear everyday. Be skeptical, and stay enlightened. Expand your knowledge, and beware the cancer of safe spaces

Hip-Hop: The Art of Storytelling

Hip-Hop: The Art of Storytelling

Hip-Hop and Rap, are perhaps the most diverse and intricate forms of music around today. Rap itself, originated in the late 1970s, poverty stricken Bronx area of New York. Poetry met music, and spread across the US like wildfire, before becoming a worldwide phenomenon. In fact, Hip-Hop has such a wide and influential history that I could sit and write a full essay about its origins, controversies and influence, but that would leave us here till the next semester rolls through. We are currently in the “Hip-Hop” era, and that much is undisputed. At this time, Hip-Hop outsells any other form of music, and while I have an immense love for all music, in particular, it would be foolish to underplay the value of Hip-Hop in today’s society. From the great faces it has brought to the light, to the culture that has spanned generations and influenced teens and music scenes across the world.

Some of the best rappers in the past 2 decades have spread their message and stories to many avid listeners across the world. For anyone doubting me, you’re reading the blog of a Malawian who’s listening to the Wu Tang Clan, and has almost every rapper from Ab-Soul to Yelawolf. My personal favourites include Earl Sweatshirt, Mac Miller, Tyler the Creator, Kendrick Lamar, Flatbush Zombies, Kanye West, Tech N9ne, J. Cole, Method Man, Nas and Mike Shinoda, just to name a few. As you can probably tell from that list, I love the storytelling aspect that rap gives, as well as the less mainstream aspects of Rap. I feel like I lean towards underground, non-mainstream rap, because as the years go by, Rap moves further away from the original movement of inspiration, innovation and change. You see, because while in Rap’s long and weathered history, the music has, strangely, been immensely diverse, with perhaps more sub-genres than even Rock. As long as I can remember growing up, even if two rappers were similar, they were never ever the same. They had their own nuances and differences that allowed the Hip-Hop Scene to grow even bigger than it already was.

Storytelling Rap touched my heart quite strongly, especially after I first listened  to Stan, by Eminem. His Magnum Opus according to many people, myself included. And as I grew older, and more involved with writing, documentaries, and the common man’s story, rap became a very strong source of inspiration. Hearing how your favourite rapper truly made it to the top from the bottom through skill, luck and a hefty amount of commitment really hits a nerve. and listening to Kendrick Lamar go into depth throughout Good Kid MaaD City really got my imagination running. And lets not talk about how deep J. Cole went in 4 Your Eyez Only. Whilst many stories have been told throughout other genres, Hip-Hop’s stories manage to go to the core. And why may that be some ask? It may because of the clever wordplay and punchlines. The sublime rhyme and cadence as well as the masterfully crafted beats. But, I think it may be because of the variety of stories told, and the numerous ways they’ve been told. From the linear narratives, to the disjointed tales that span albums, simply to the brief hints placed throughout albums. A lot can be told about an artist and his story from what he sings, and the personal touch bleeds through hip-hop profusely. A good example of this could be Mac Miller, who doesn’t exactly narrate his raps like a story, but gives many hints of his life and his struggles through his music, all while keeping to the themes of his music.

Now that we’ve covered that, its time to bite into the heart of the matter. The so called wave of Mumble Rap. This is entirely my opinion, and I won’t hesitate to say just how distasteful I find the stuff. It’s an amalgamation of the recent trends of finding a catchy beat to make some fourth grade rhymes to. Fine, I’m not saying you can’t listen to it, in fact, I admit that some tracks make for good club bangers. I can bump to Panda and Broccoli in the heat of the moment. But that’s about it for me, the heat of the moment. I’ve almost never gone into my playlist to sit down and listen to some Lil Uzi or, (god forbid), Kodak Black. Do not come to me with some trash like, “Oh, they’re just as good as Kendrick or Kanye.) Respect your fucking self. It lacks the heart and soul that makes Hip-Hop what it truly is. The intuitive flow and wit that compels people to sit down and listen. A comprehensive look into the history and culture of African Americans, and their long struggle. The true soul, is what Mumble Rap lacks.

Now, I still say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, as I am to mine. I am not barring anyone from listening to the music that they prefer. That, to me, is as sacrosanct as any of your holy books are to you. Perhaps I am more inclined to speak out in light of President Trump’s rise to presidency and growing race tensions in the US, and another country that is quite close to my heart, South Africa. Hip Hop has the power to move hearts and spread powerful message. Many artists have managed to make money spreading a message that encourages black on black violence and gang affiliation, and that should never be forgotten. others, have made it clear to tell the story of their lives and the struggles that they saw growing up. People like Kendrick Lamar and Logic, who have experienced drugs and violence, but have nonetheless risen above their pasts and are still spreading positive vibrations in their music. Far too few artists in Hip Hop have promoted peace and love, which is a shame, because it is something the genre, and culture sorely needs.

My admiration for Hip Hop goes deep, with many of my friends and peers being involved in the genre in one way or another. I have grown to love the diversity and history of the Hip Hop culture as I have grown and my musical tastes have expanded. The influence it holds as well as the power and allure that keeps many young people flocking to its boughs. As for me, I will continue to be enthralled by music, and its healing nature. My parting words are to continue to explore the hidden facets of your interests. Never be deterred or overwhelmed by the amount of content, because you’ll never know if you’ll find a diamond in a rhinestone unless you search. As Nas said, “Let the music diffuse all the tension”.

 

What it means to be part of Generation Z

What it means to be part of Generation Z

Juvenoia; which is the hostility, or fear directed by an older generation towards a younger one. The general belief that the current generation is better than the one to come. Remember this, ‘cause it will come into play later on.

But for now, you must be asking yourself, what is Generation Z? How do you know what generation you’re in? Well, I trust that you people are smart enough to do your own research, but Generation Z, for simplicity’s sake, is the generation following the Millennial Generation. You know, most of our parents and uncles, and some cousins. It’s a generation that is conservative in nature, being involved in major political affairs, such as the Cold War and the Iraq-Iran War. For Africans, it’s also a period associated with freedom! Independence! and the subsequent rise of incompetent, ruthless, and corrupt leaders. It’s no wonder many people are so mad at the Millennial Generation, they appear to have successfully fucked things up, almost to an irreversible state.  If you were born sometime between 1997 and 2004, good news, you’re part of Generation Z! As cool as it sounds, it doesn’t seem to be going well for us. I jokingly often write in my journal that we are the “Generation of Fear”, primarily being the ones scared. Before many of us could even experience fear…boom! The Columbine Massacre, which shocked the world, the Y2K scare, which many thought would end the world, the horrific 9/11 attacks, and the Great Recession. As we grew older, we witnessed the Iraq War, and more terror attacks than had ever been seen. And not just terrorism from Islamic factions, but gun violence and mass shootings too. The Garissa University attack in Kenya leaving 150 people dead, the kidnapping of girls by Boko Haram, the Paris bombings, and most recently, the possibility that a racist and misogynist like Donald Trump might become president of the most powerful country in the world.

Yes, it seems we are a failed generation despite not having reached our potential. I, for one, am still not in college, yet I seemed to have disappointed the majority of my onlookers and relatives by becoming a rebel and not striving to be an engineer, doctor, or lawyer. I instead have a deep rooted love of quiet, books, photography, and technology. Maybe because of this, the juvenoia directed towards me is rather strong. I feel constantly berated by my elders for my own life choices, choosing happiness, and a little bit of money, over the money alone. Some people might argue that juvenoia is a good influence on us youngsters. It’d do us some good to listen to our elders for once. Wrong! And this is especially true for us Africans, especially considering that our elders are the corrupt and unreliable leaders who have contributed some part to the general state of things on our lovely continent.  I think that their juvenoia is terribly misplaced, considering we are more educated, well informed, and knowledgeable than them. We may not have their wisdom, but the ability to change our destinies and break the cycle of tribalism, hatred, racism and poverty is in our hands. Basically, what I’m saying is, stop giving us so much shit. This isn’t all our faults.

We may not be even near to perfect. The media makes us seem like a bunch of unruly animals, what with all the teen pregnancies, and drug abuse among teenagers, and the thousand other things said about us. But really, who can put all the blame on us? I’m not trying to make us unaccountable, but when you see what we see, you’d understand. Oh the glitz and the glam! The rappers with their jewellery and cars, the models marrying said rappers. The celebrities who sniff lines of coke and win Grammies and Oscars and the reality stars who are able to rise to stardom from saying, or doing things that would ordinarily warrant quite a lot of shame. We are the recipients of a world that has seen the most organised drug trafficking, human trafficking and crime…yet. Not to mention the generation that has been introduced to all sorts of new substances, all at reasonable street prices, and introduced to the worst sorts of radicalism, all accessible through your favourite media platform.

Cyber bullying, ebola, police violence, riots, child porn, drugs, zika, terrorism, radicalism, mass shootings, increasing suicide rate, anxiety, been there, done that. Fear, fear, FEAR stress, stress, STRESS….are you scared yet? Good, because we’re still here.

We’re not only hanging on, we’re becoming better for it. Our generation is the first to, for the most part, be alright with same sax marriage. We are the least racist generation in a long time. We’re independent, wanting to become entrepreneurs and carve our own paths. We’re the generation with the most friends outside of our sex, religion and race. More educated and open minded, we’re very serious about change for the better. At least, those who can manage to do so, even in the smallest ways. We’ve been exposed to the worst of it, and we’re moving forward. “Kids these days,” they say disapprovingly. Yes, kids these days. Us. We may be young, but we’ve got big plans. We dress differently, and listen to, admittedly, awful music(at times) and we think differently. But if we’re fixing some of the messes you made, and some you couldn’t fix, then it might be time to change that tone.

We’re the generation of Crisis, after the Unravelling, and we were born to not be just another statistic to scare the next generation into behaving. We’re the harbingers of change, and revolution, to inspire the next genration. It’s time to start moving.

Alone, but not Lonely

The Friday before last, I was issued a challenge that I could not resist. During a seminal discussion at the African Leadership Academy, we were challenged to give up social media until Monday morning. Well, not exactly, as the challenge was split into four parts. Level 1, no FaceBook, level 2, no FaceBook or Instagram, level 3, no social media, and Level 4 no tech whatsoever. The challenge was to make us realize that we’re never truly alone, even if we’re physically alone. What with all your friends at your fingertips, it’s easy to reach out to them during any situation, whether you’re bored or down. And that puts us in a state of disconnect…from ourselves. We don’t truly know what it is to be alone, and so when we are alone, we equate it to loneliness. We panic, we fidget, and finally reach for the closest piece of tech to help lull us into calm.

But being alone, does not mean being lonely. I for one did the level two challenge, including in it Snapchat and twitter, and even 9gag. In the end, I was incredibly surprised at how little I needed my phone during the three days of the challenge. Being a huge geek, and very tech savvy, I thought I would break down within 5 hours of waking up the next day. However, I was able to go through the weekend with barely a hitch. Looking back on it, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Growing up, I was the type of kid who would immerse himself in a novel for hours on end, and growing up, even sleeping at 3am because of it. Whenever I was actually free, and not engulfed in the hustle and bustle of a busy life, I cherished the opportunity to be alone, and with my thoughts. No doubt many people found it utterly strange, but it was a solace for me.

I think a little time for reflection is important in today’s world. To just…disconnect for a bit. Once you’re free from all the background noise, you might be alarmed at the peace, and the clarity of your thoughts…and I don’t think that’s so bad.

Ignorance, And what Becomes of It

As I write this to you, 25000 ft in the air, I am currently contemplating three things. What my last words would be if this plane crashed and I was in it, which method is more favourable to me, the Epicurean, or the Stoic, and what new piece of knowledge to digest when I land. I, by nature, am a curious creature. And that isn’t to say that I am a foreign being unknown to humans, but that I am one interested in the workings and mechanics of many things. I have, much to the disdain of my parents, opened, and shabbily put together various pieces of equipment and technology, ranging from watches, to laptops. However, my curiosity does not stop at the practical level. It has always been surpassed by theoretical knowledge. The type that stems from the ancient pages of books, some new, and some long forgotten.

As a young child, I was raised mostly by my grandmother, and various relations on my mother’s side. Tough as nails, this woman was very strict on what I watched, especially cartoons. While this didn’t stop me from finding rather mischievous ways to get my daily dose of Samurai Jack and Courage the Cowardly Dog, it did mean that more than half of my time was spent       watching National Geographic, History and the Discovery Channel. While, at first, this was a very tedious exercise, I began to grow rather fond of it. Very quickly learning how the universe was most likely formed and of the Allied victory against the Nazis during WWII, I had by the age of six, a rather large well of knowledge. Most of it seemed utterly useless at the time, but I was still pleased that I knew four times more about the world and its history than any of my peers.

Ancient History at the time was my absolute favourite. It was almost like being transported to a whole other world. One which had grown, prospered and died. Probably one of the reasons my favourite subjects are the arts and humanities. And despite my absolute loathing of mathematics and the sciences, I would never miss out on an opportunity to learn about the universe or our planet, even dabbling into the basics of quantum physics and the like. For a long time, I took this for granted, at least until my first year of high school.

It wasn’t so hard to notice I was more versed in real life knowledge than my peers, taking a more pragmatic approach to many other things. Thus, when presented with a plethora of conspiracy theories and myths, it was extremely easy for me to shrug them off. Unfortunately, I had to deal with their ramblings, and that made me wonder why I was so different. Now I realise that the vast amounts of information I had amassed over the years had both contributed to my general knowledge, as well as made my friends seem a tad bit more stupid. I had to deal with their irrational behaviour, and that, I’m sad to say, did influence the way I looked at them. They just seemed more childish and, well…ignorant. And that’s the sad truth. In my case, I’ve always known there are millions of people more knowledgeable than me, but I always try to learn to my greatest capacity. In that way, I always feel like I can hold my own in a conversation, be it with a learned scholar, or an adamant geek.

Ignorance, is the bane of a species that has survived, thrived and conquered due to our ability to learn and adapt to the problems that we face. Ignorance breeds hatred, and mistrust among us. Look at the slave trade and segregation based on sexual orientation, race and religion. We align ourselves with one point, rooted to the spot and never bothering to consider other options or possibilities. We believe that our knowledge is unparalleled despite other voices that rise up, or evidence against us. Worst of all, we pass this way of thinking to other people, especially those close to us, and this creates a cesspool of filth and ignorance. Bigotry and racism.

We never question the small things that we take for granted, and unwittingly create a dark pool from which a number of nasty things can fester due to our ignorance. To the enlightened soul, this darkness is akin to poison, and must be avoided. Which is probably why a learned man will speak with an uneducated one with a curled lip. However, this can be avoided by doing something simple. No, you need not read Gray’s Anatomy, or every Shakespearean work. You need only question. And by doing that, you open yourself up to possibilities, and facts and theories. After which, your curiosity will entice you to do a little research and you will sound, at least, a little more intelligent, and can engage in conversations with more people. But most importantly, you will begin to understand. Not just about our beautiful world, but about cultures, and history, and people. You won’t think that all Africans live in trees, or that depression is a first world problem. You’ll have better empathy for other people, and a little more love because of it.

Stamping out ignorance, won’t single-handedly solve the world’s  problems. Nor will it make every person better. But I do hope it broadens perspectives, and that’s what everyone should be doing in the 21st century.

Until next time.

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