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Today I unearthed unexpectedly, from the clutter in my drawer, my Zimbabwean post office book. At the time I last used it, which was in 1996, its charmingly analogue columns attested to my ownership of Z$529.23.



This would have been the residue of all the saving I did from vac jobs when I was at school or in my first few years at university, less whatever I drew out for self-indulgence (usually books or fabric). If it's still there, and hasn't been closed down or whatever, it might have picked up a bit of interest in the intervening fifteen years. But let's take it from the actual depicted amount. It's currently worth a fraction over 10 South African rand, or approximatly 0.89 British pounds.

My mother has an older sister who is still in Zim - she's mentally disabled and lives in a retirement home. My grandparents left a trust fund for her when they died, which was designed to provide for her for the rest of her life. After Zim's economic collapse, my mother drew the entirety of the trust fund out of the bank, and used it to buy a milkshake and a toasted cheese sandwich at a local fast food joint.

I spent the first 20 years of my life in Zimbabwe. I don't know if it's possible to get across to someone who hasn't had their national identity whisked out from under them like a rug, exactly how odd it feels: your whole childhood, the validity of a whole nation's operation, taken away from you. The first twenty years of my life is unreal to the point where it may as well have been a fantasy, one which has been replaced with a reality which is horribly Kafkaesque. My stupid post office book is a ridiculous microcosm of the feeling my parents must have had, watching their entire working lives, plans, investments, gurgle down the drain in a matter of months. There are still people in Zim, and a government of sorts, and if you work in US$ apparently you can make a living there, but there is no coherent sense of stability or continuity such as would make a sense of identity feel legitimate.

They say you can't go home again, and in this particular case they're horribly right. I have enormous emotional attachment to Zimbabwe's landscapes, which at times I still miss with an almost physical ache, but the place is no longer the locus of any sense of a working country. I can't think of myself as a Zimbabwean any more, because Zimbabwe doesn't viably exist. But I still can't think of myself as a South African. At best, I'm a Capetonian. At worst, I know I'm not anything. There's not anything to be from. It does some very odd things to one's psyche.

queer-ass folk

Wednesday, 1 July 2009 10:30 am
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Back at work, alas. On the upside, it's pretty dead, and I'm mostly cruising the internet and answering email backlogs in a desultory fashion. I can't work out if it's an upside or a downside that the Japanese Peace Lily in my office has produced two flowers while I was away: it seems a bit of a pointed commentary on my ineffectual druiding ("look! I do better without you!").

Making Light pointed me to today's happy dose of religious bigotry, now with bonus illogic and out-of-context references to Catullus. Apparently all men are actually latently gay and permitting gay marriage will only encourage them. Mostly this speaks volumes about the latent gay urges of the writer, don't you think? Homosexuality is never such a bugaboo as when you're trying to deny it in yourself. (He's righteously and rather entertainingly hacked to shreds in the comments, I'm pleased to say).

It's making me ponder, though, and alerting the Department of Logical Extrapolation. We're in South Africa, home of a liberal constitution I'm rather proud to live under, which explicitly states that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is not permitted. By this logic, surely it's not OK for a religious figure to stand up in a South African pulpit and denounce homosexuality as wrong? by doing this, don't they "discriminate directly or indirectly" against homosexuals, most importantly by teaching and encouraging discrimination?

And if this is the case, surely it's theoretically possible to take them to court? As far as I know the Bill of Rights's provisions on discrimination are only actually translated into law in the case of employment equity and right to marriage, but the Constitution is supposed to be binding on the courts. Point 8.3 of the Bill of Rights states that "When applying a provision of the Bill of Rights to a natural or juristic person in terms of subsection (2), a court ­... in order to give effect to a right in the Bill, must apply, or if necessary develop, the common law to the extent that legislation does not give effect to that right". If someone tried to sue a church for frothing anti-gay sentiment, the court would be obliged to create a precedent based on the constitution in order to deem whether this was a crime.

So I'm interested in why this hasn't happened yet. Am I misreading the constitutional notion of "discrimination", so that saying that gays are evil isn't actually discrimination? because, ye gods, it really is. Or does no-one call them on it because of the usual failure of political will in the face of large-scale and dearly-held beliefs? I cannot sufficiently state how happy it would make me to have every narrow-minded fundamentalist church in this country slapped with the requirement to shut the fuck up with regard to their personal bigotries about homosexuality, because "it's my religion!" cannot trump "it's illegal". But that's going to happen like an academic post in science fiction is going to fall into my lap tomorrow. More's the pity.

the dark continent

Saturday, 18 April 2009 07:20 pm
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I seem to be back in Cape Town. On Friday morning the nice cleaning lady came dashing into my study, a bit wild-eyed. She was gazing out the window while ironing, to see a car pull up in the road outside; two guys got out, smashed the back window of the neighbour's Conquest, nicked something from the back seat, leaped back into their car and drove away, all while she was putting down the iron and drawing breath to shout. Current thievery clearly tends to the high-speed.

While on the subject of postcolonial despair, during the UK trip we had tea with my aunt, who's doing the classic Zimbabwean thing of working in the UK for six months of the year looking after the elderly, in order to finance the other six months in Zim. She bought 17 of the following for a US dollar.

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