Tuesday, June 29, 2010

JUNE

If you’ve been living under a rock or in a cave up some mountain with no reception over these past few weeks, then please know that I have never been to a World Cup event before, ever. But judging from the amount of fun I’ve been having lately, I’m already thinking of booking my ticket for Brazil in 2014!

Suffice to say that this months challenge was a given and in the weirdest way, I’ve shared this challenge with everyone else in SA too (although I’m guessing no one else has been making the most of it the way I have… but THAT is a whole other story for another day). I won’t go into details because seriously, that’s all I’ve been talking about for the past three weeks! But I will leave you with one of my favourite goal performances of all time… from the Ghanian team. Now these guys know how to do it!



Here’s a little history on the goal ‘dance’… it really says a lot about a team methinks.



*sigh* I might just need a bout of therapy or some anti-depressants after the 11th of July. Or maybe the SA government will be kind and deport me. Man I love foreigners!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Spirit & Value Of Ubuntu

As a born and bred South African, I can spend hours and days criticising everything I find fault with in this country. But the thing is, in my mind, only I (and other bona-fide South Africans) are allowed to criticise and ridicule this country... no one else. In fact, it pisses me off when someone who does not reside here has something negative to say about SA and I often find myself jumping to the country's defense.

So essentially, I want to be the only one saying how I hate facets of life in SA… weird I know. Call it patriotism if you like.

There are days where I wish I was a foreigner for many reasons, but mostly because when you’re a foreigner in SA, you’re a KING. Seriously. You will never… sorry I mean NEVER encounter better hospitality anywhere else in the world. People over here will resort to all kinds of measures, including taking the food out of their own kids’ mouths and bending over backwards (literally) to please their guests because it is a part of our culture. The culture of Ubuntu.

Now I’ve been to my fair share of countries around the world, and bar a few of the orthodox Arab states and one or two others, most people do not know or live Ubuntu anywhere else in the world. At it’s core, Ubuntu symbolizes a unity, a togetherness, an interconnected-ness within a larger community. It is the spirit of unwavering generosity, warmth and sincere heartfelt kindness. Ubuntu means that your problem is everyone else’s problem and that you’re never alone in this world. It is the very essence of the phrase “I AM BECAUSE WE ARE”.

Shari Cohen, an American journalist (or at least I think she’s American), said it best in an emotional article posted on The Huffington Post:

I went on a rant the other day regarding the cost of the 2010 World Cup versus all the critical needs South Africa is facing and whether or not the most vulnerable of this country would gain anything from having the World Cup hosted in their country. At that time, I also had some very positive things to say about our hosts for the 2010 World Cup and I wanted to share that side of the coin as well, because it is equally important.

To say that I have been blown away at the hospitality South Africa has shown the rest of the world would be an understatement. I think back on recent Olympics and struggle to remember much reporting in the USA of athletes from other countries. I remember when a Togolese guy won a bronze medal in kayaking and NBC reported it and I thought to myself, "where are all the other fascinating stories like this one...like the Jamaican bobsledding team." In today's America, sadly, we have drifted so far towards being so US-centric that we only seem to root for the Americans.

Not so here in South Africa. I've been here since early May and each week I have become more and more impressed with the global embrace that South Africans have offered up to the world. On the way to the airport a couple of weeks ago, I heard a radio program that said each day they would focus on one country that would be coming to South Africa for the World Cup, and they would explore not only that sport's history in soccer, but also their politics, religion, and socio-cultural practices. On the television, I've seen numerous programs that focus on a particular country and it's history of soccer and how the history of that country is intertwined with their soccer history. I've seen programs on India, exploring why India enjoys soccer but hasn't really excelled at the global level... yet. And I've seen shows on soccer in Muslim countries. Maybe it's planned, maybe it's unplanned, maybe it's by chance, but it is happening. It's not just about South Africans showing off their varied and multifaceted culture to their global guests, it's also about using this opportunity to educate South Africa on the rest of Planet Earth's inhabitants.

As I moved through my work here in the provinces over the last six weeks, I had a pivotal meeting with the Board members of a rural NGO. They were explaining their guiding program philosophy of Ubuntu. No, not the Linux program. I'm talking about the traditional African philosophy of Ubuntu that essentially says, "No man is an island."

I found a better explanation from Wikipedia:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008:

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality -- Ubuntu -- you are known for your generosity.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

To me, Ubuntu is the acceptance of others as parts of the sum total of each of us. And that is exactly what I have experienced during the lead up to, and the initial days of this World Cup. There is nary a South African citizen that I've met on the street, or in shops or restaurants or hotels, that hasn't gone out of their way to greet me and make me feel like I am home. And I don't mean that in the trivial, "Oh, aren't they nice, homey people here... " sort of way. I mean real, genuine interest and questions. People seriously want to know where I come from. What it's like where I live. How does it compare to where I am now. What do I think of South Africa. Oh yes, and what do I think of Bafana Bafana... The questions and conversations are in earnest. They are honest. And they are had with enthusiasm and a thirst to know more. South Africans are drinking deeply from the cup of humanity that has been brought to their doorstep. I would never imagine that an American World Cup or Olympics would ever be this welcoming to the rest of the world. And that saddens me for the state of my home country, but it also makes me feel the pride of the South African people.

I have been truly humbled on this trip. And while I have my gripes regarding development here, I cannot say one negative thing about how South Africa has handled its duties as host and hostess to the world. If I could say one thing to sum up being here during this once-in-a-lifetime experience, it would be that I've learned the value of Ubuntu, and that when found and offered in abundance, the world is indeed a better place to live in.

So, if South Africa accomplishes nothing more on the playing field, it will still have won as a host country. I am a cynic, no doubt about that. And yet I have to admit, I'm a little teary just writing this because I leave for home next weekend and I will be leaving a little piece of myself here in South Africa. I just hope I have learned enough to bring back a little piece of Ubuntu to my homeland, where perhaps with a little caring and a little water, it will take root as naturally as it does here, in the cradle of civilization. It's funny, many people in America still ask me, "are the people in Africa very primitive?" Yes, I know, amazing someone could ask that but they do. And when they do, I usually explain that living in a mud hut does not make one primitive, however, allowing kids to sell drugs to other kids and engage in drive-by killings -- isn't that primitive behavior? I think it is. When I think of Ubuntu and my recent experiences here, I think America has much to learn from Africa in general, in terms of living as a larger village; and as human beings who are all interconnected with each other, each of us having an affect on our brothers and sisters.

As the 2010 Cup slogan goes, "Feel it. It is here." Well, I have felt it, because I am here. Thank you South Africa, for giving me this unexpected gift. I am humbled.

This concept of Ubuntu may be inconceivable to most foreigners… but it’s the one thing that unifies us as a nation, discarding all our differences and making us all proudly South African. And even in the face of adversity and negativity, it is the heart and pulse that drives the nation. Yes, we really want to know where you’re from. Yes, we really do care if you’re having a good time. Yes, we really want the best for you on your journey. Because like I said before, I AM BECAUSE WE ARE. And no man is an island.

Friday, June 25, 2010

So Many Things On My Mind...

If there are a few things this World Cup has brought to light for me it’s that:

For one, I DON’T hate South Africa at all. I’m actually proudly South African and I really love my country more than I even realise… it’s most of the people that I can’t stand (generalizing but you get the point).

Secondly, South African’s do not have self esteem and they do not believe in themselves as individuals or as a nation. Even Sepp Blatter had more faith and confidence in SA as a nation that could pull off hosting the World Cup, than most South Africans did. In fact, I still hear the moaning and negativity. There are clusters of people that are so bloody NEGATIVE it’s sickening.

At first it was all about how we would never pull it off (talking about FIFA 2010, keep up people). Then they had to generate interest and excitement via commercials because having the Soccer World Cup in your backyard and talking about it for 6 years straight wasn’t exciting enough. Then it was all about how Bafana wasn’t good enough. Then it was like “yeah see, we did it, we pulled it off”… like WTF, why do you need to justify and convince your own people that they are capable of more then what they’re accustomed to?? And then there were the “this is so great, I wish it could be like this all the time-s”… erm, hello, it CAN be like this all the time, all you have to do is to stop bitching and moaning about EVERY. SINGLE. THING. It’s called having a little faith in the nation.

In the entire 6 years that the World Cup was shoved down my throat by the media, I did not once think that we couldn't pull it off. I always knew that it would happen, I just never thought that I'd be here to witness it (but thats a whole other story on its own). It’s that subtle constant negativity that is so ingrained in the SA culture that gets me down; and its no wonder that most days I just want to get the hell out and go to a place where I feel and believe that anything is possible, a place where such positive notions are airborne and a given. It's  probably a good thing that most foreigners and nations will never see or experience any that negativity first hand (because South Africans, like most of the football players in this World Cup, are great actors) and that it is something that people only get a whiff of once they reside here. I blame Apartheid for instilling generations with negativity and realistically speaking, one cannot undo over a half a century’s damage in just 16 years.

I have to say that I'm quite annoyed with all the people who have purchased block tickets from FIFA… talking like 30 or 50 tickets for a game… then sell it off to others at astronomical prices. And I’m not talking about people who’ve bought tickets but have to re-sell because they can’t make the game or even those who are selling their extra tickets that cost R560 for R600 etc. I’m talking about those greedy MOFO’s that are asking over R1000 for a ticket they paid R140 for. That has pissed me off royally because if you go to FIFA’s site, they say all the tickets are sold out, yet clearly there are a lot of empty seats in the stadia. Whoever thought they’d make a hefty profit at the expense of other’s at this World Cup, I hope you don’t get to sell anything and that you go bankrupt FOREVER, YOU FUCKING BITCHES!

People don’t understand that it robs other poorer / more disadvantaged people of getting the opportunity to experience the game. They just don’t get it because they're only ever thinking of themselves and what they can gain from the situation. And it’s that kind of South African mentality that peeves me off to no end… where everyone is out to make a dime at the expense of everyone else. These mofo’s couldn’t just enjoy this one thing without scoring out of it. If I cared more, I would have reported every single one of them… I may still if I’m bored… for fun.

In other news… I’m sad that Algeria is gone. I was rooting for my fine Muslim brothers but its okay, they will live and still be fine tomorrow and in the next four years. I was downright shocked when Italy, the reigning champions, got the boot before making it out of the group stages. I guess this really is anyone’s World Cup and it seems as though the altitude really is / was an issue for most of the teams.

If you want to know the effect that altitude can have on a person, I’ll give you an example. Way back in them days of colonialism when people from the Northern Hemisphere came to settle in the South, they struggled to adjust to the altitude to such a degree that most of the wives in these camps either couldn’t conceive babies or if they bore children, their children wouldn’t survive for long periods of time. So in order for them to rear normal, healthy babies, it became essential for couples who conceived to have their children in the North or in their place of origin, and the women had to stay there for a year or two after the child was born before they moved back to the Southern Hemisphere.

No wonder most of them can’t kick the ball into the net. Shame.

The other day I found out that each player receives US$1600 for each game that they play and the winning team receives US$30 million, the runner up US$24 million and third place takes home US$20 million. At the end of the day it’s all about the money innit. And to a large extent, FIFA is a gambler and a con-man, conning most of the world out of their hard earned cash and luring each player to the promise of “stardom”. No wonder they’re so emotional and such great actors. Speaking of acting, I miss the days when real men played real football and collided with other real men on the field before they got up and carried on playing like nothing happened. These days there are so many pansies on the field acting like prima donna’s for every minor bump and bruise incurred, its ridiculous. Oh and let’s not start with the ludicrous calls by delusional referees… we could be here all day.

But with all the drama, I have to say that for me, the positives outweigh the negatives. There have been a lot of debates about the World Cup from Muslim and non-Muslim clerics alike. My views are as such: I like to live my life in moderation and I believe that at the core, that is what Islam is all about. So yes, we cannot idolize these football players no matter how hot they are; and yes we shouldn’t be missing our Salaah for a game; and yes we shouldn’t go to extraordinary measures to attend these matches at the expense of our family’s well-being or our finances etc. BUT I believe that if something is not overtly Haraam and forbidden, it should be regulated and moderated and most importantly, I believe that as a Muslim nation, we cannot isolate ourselves to the point where our behaviour segregates people and nations, does not foster kinship and instead generates animosity.

As Muslims, we are instructed to spread the word of Islam to anyone willing to listen. How do you spread the word when you’re so isolated that no one wants to hear what you’ve got to say? As Muslims, we are also instructed to respect all other religions and cultures. Well this is the culture of football. And every aspect of it may not be entirely kosher, but we are not the Judgers of His Creation and if people transgress The Almighty’s Laws, you can be sure that they will be held accountable for it. We can choose to live in moderation and in a manner that does not condescend but inspires others. We can choose to take the best out of the World Cup; to appreciate our differences and similarities; to cultivate bonds and friendships based on respect and understanding. After all, no man is an island and it gets lonely in the corner. We are not compelled to participate in those practices that seem questionable or that we do not agree with… but we can still respect it for what it is. The Prophet SAW was a great example of a man who did not necessarily participate in cultural events and activities, and as long as it did not infringe on the laws of Islam, he did not prohibit or deny these practices and activities amongst his people either.

I re-iterate, I do not like the beautiful game nearly as much as most people do. But I do love the beautiful men, and on Judgment day, I believe that I will be held accountable for my actions, as everyone else will be held accountable for theirs. In the meantime, I will enjoy the few minutes that the world is not centered around petty politics and religious fanaticism.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

I've mentioned, on more than one occasion, how I detest irresponsible journalism and sensationalism... the root cause of alot of unnecessary conflict and animosity, making mountains out of mole-hills and telling versions of the "truth"... hmmm, where have I heard this before... oh yes it's the same modus operandi of the Devil himself.

I've expressed my opinions on this before. Along with commercial media [irresponsible] journalism has become a money-grabbing seedy profession... do anything for a story, even fabricate and conjure something up, all in the name of fame and numbers. People love and thrive on drama, that's a fact. And if there is no drama, they will create and conjure it. Then some power-fame-hungry moron comes along and capitalises on this conjecture by exploiting others and their situations.

For the vultures twisting assumptions and lies to make their story, there are no repercussions and ramifications for their morally reprehensible behaviour. "Oops I may have made that up and ruined someone's life" doesn't automatically carry a jail sentence with it. The ultimate example of seedy, whore-ish, shameful, irresponsible and downright vile journalism is evident in the following excerpt from The Huffington Post titled "One of the Most Shameful Episodes In Journalistic History" by Charles Thomson. It was too good not to share and although it's quite lengthy, it's a read that I highly recommend.

It was five years ago today that twelve jurors unanimously acquitted Michael Jackson on various charges of child molestation, conspiracy and providing alcohol to a minor. It is difficult to know how history will remember the Michael Jackson trial. Perhaps as the epitome of western celebrity obsession. Perhaps as a 21st century lynching. Personally, I think it will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in journalistic history.

It's not until you find yourself digging through newspaper archives and re-watching hours of TV coverage that you truly understand the magnitude of the media's failings. It was industry-wide. No doubt, there were certain reporters and even certain publications and TV stations that overtly favored the prosecution, but many of the media's shortcomings were institutional. In a media obsessed with soundbites, how to you reduce eight hours of testimony into two sentences and remain accurate? In an era of rolling news and instant blogging, how do you resist the temptation to dash out of the courtroom at the earliest opportunity to break news of the latest salacious allegations, even if it means missing a slice of the day's testimony?

Looking back on the Michael Jackson trial, I see a media out of control. The sheer amount of propaganda, bias, distortion and misinformation is almost beyond comprehension. Reading the court transcripts and comparing them to the newspaper cuttings, the trial that was relayed to us didn't even resemble the trial that was going on inside the courtroom. The transcripts show an endless parade of seedy prosecution witnesses perjuring themselves on an almost hourly basis and crumbling under cross examination. The newspaper cuttings and the TV news clips detail day after day of heinous accusations and lurid innuendo.

It was November 18th 2003 when 70 sheriffs swooped on Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. As soon as news of the raid broke, news channels abandoned their schedules and switched to 24 hour coverage. When it emerged that Jackson was accused of molesting young cancer survivor Gavin Arvizo, the boy who famously held the singer's hand in Martin Bashir's 'Living With Michael Jackson', the media went into overdrive. Networks were so obsessed by the Jackson scandal that a terrorist attack in Turkey went almost entirely unreported, with only CNN bothering to broadcast George Bush and Tony Blair's joint press conference about the disaster.

All three major networks immediately set about producing hour-long specials on the Jackson case, apparently undeterred by the fact that nothing was yet known about the allegations and prosecutors weren't answering questions. CBS dedicated an episode of 48 Hours Investigates to the arrest, while NBC's Dateline and ABC's 20/20 also rushed out Jackson specials. Within two days of the Neverland raid, and before Jackson had even been arrested, VH1 announced a half-hour documentary called 'Michael Jackson Sex Scandal'.

Daily Variety described the Jackson story as "a godsend for... media outlets, particularly cable news channels and local stations looking to pump up Nielsen numbers in the final week of the all-important November sweeps."

Daily Variety was right. Celebrity-oriented news shows saw figures spike when the Jackson story hit. Viewing figures for Access Hollywood were up 10% on the previous week. Entertainment Tonight and Extra both achieved season best audience numbers and Celebrity Justice also enjoyed an 8% rise.

Newspapers reacted just as hysterically as TV stations. 'Sicko!' shrieked the New York Daily News. 'Jacko: Now Get Out Of This One' goaded the New York Post.

The Sun - Britain's biggest newspaper - ran an article titled 'He's Bad, He's Dangerous, He's History'. The piece branded Jackson an 'ex-black ex-superstar', a 'freak' and a 'twisted individual' and called for his children to be taken into care. "If he weren't a pop idol with piles of cash to hide behind," it said, "he would have been picked up years ago."

Encouraged by the audience boosts the Jackson scandal had produced, media outlets made it their mission to milk the case for all that they could. Entertainment Weekly's Tom Sinclair wrote, "Media mavens, from the tackiest tabloid reporter to the nattiest network news anchor, are in overdrive scrambling to fill column inches and airtime with Jacko scoops and talking heads."

"Pressure on news people is enormous," attorney Harland Braun told Sinclair. "So lawyers you've never heard of wind up on television talking about cases that they have no connection to."

Sinclair added, "And not just lawyers. Everyone from doctors, writers, and psychiatrists to convenience-store clerks who once waited on Jackson are weighing in on TV and in print."

While the media was busy badgering a host of quacks and distant acquaintances for their views on the scandal, the team of prosecutors behind the latest Jackson case was engaging in some highly questionable behavior - but the media didn't seem to care.

During the Neverland raid District Attorney Tom Sneddon - the prosecutor who unsuccessfully pursued Jackson in 1993 - and his officers breached the terms of their own search warrant by entering Jackson's office and seizing hoards of irrelevant business papers. They also illegally raided the office of a PI working for Jackson's defense team and lifted defense documents from the home of the singer's personal assistant.

Sneddon also appeared to be tampering with fundamental elements of his case whenever evidence came to light which undermined the Arvizo family's claims. For instance, when the DA found out about two taped interviews in which the entire Arvizo family sang Jackson's praises and denied any abuse, he introduced a conspiracy charge and claimed they'd been forced to lie against their will.

In a similar instance, Jackson's lawyer Mark Geragos appeared on NBC in January 2004 and announced that the singer had a 'concrete, iron-clad alibi' for the dates on the charge sheet. By the time Jackson was re-arraigned in April for the conspiracy charge, the molestation dates on the rap sheet had been shifted by almost two weeks.

Sneddon was later caught seemingly trying to plant fingerprint evidence against Jackson, allowing accuser Gavin Arvizo to handle adult magazines during the grand jury hearings, then bagging them up and sending them away for fingerprint analysis.

Not only did the majority of the media overlook this flurry of questionable and occasionally illegal activity on the part of the prosecution, it also seemed perfectly content to perpetuate damning propaganda on the prosecution's behalf, despite a complete lack of corroborative evidence. For example, Diane Dimond appeared on Larry King Live days after Jackson's arrest and spoke repeatedly about a 'stack of love letters' the star had supposedly written to Gavin Arvizo.

"Does anyone here... know of the existence of these letters?" asked King.

"Absolutely," Dimond replied. "I do. I absolutely know of their existence!"

"Diane, have you read them?"

"No, I have not read them."

Dimond admitted that she'd never even seen the letters, let alone read them, but said she knew about them from "high law enforcement sources". But those love letters never materialized. When Dimond said she 'absolutely knew' of their existence she was basing her comments solely on the words of police sources. At best, the police sources were parroting the Arvizos' allegations in good faith. At worst, they'd concocted the story themselves to sully Jackson's name. Either way, the story went around the world with not a shred of evidence to support it.

It was over a year between Jackson's arrest and the beginning of his trial and the media was forced to try to pad the story out for as long as they could in the interim. Aware that Jackson was bound by gag order and therefore powerless to respond, prosecution sympathizers started leaking documents such as Jordan Chandler's 1993 police statement. The media, hungry for scandal and sensationalism, pounced on them.

At the same time, allegations sold to tabloid TV shows by disgruntled ex-employees in the 1990s were constantly re-hashed and presented as news. Small details of the Arvizo family's allegations would also periodically leak.

While most media outlets reported these stories as allegations rather than facts, the sheer amount and frequency of stories connecting Jackson to ugly sexual abuse, coupled with his inability to refute them, had a devastating effect on the star's public image.

The trial began in early 2005 with jury selection. Asked by NBC about prosecution and defense jury selection tactics, Dimond said the difference was that prosecutors would be looking for jurors who had a sense of 'good versus evil' and 'right and wrong'.

No sooner had the jurors been selected than Newsweek was trying to undermine them, claiming that a middle class jury would be unable to fairly judge a family of lower class accusers. In an article titled 'Playing the Class Card' the magazine said, "The Jackson trial may hinge on something other than race. And we don't mean the evidence."

As the trial kicked into gear, it became quickly apparent that the case was full of holes. The prosecution's only 'evidence' was a stack of heterosexual porn magazines and a couple of legal art books. Thomas Mesereau wrote in a court motion, "The effort to try Mr. Jackson for having one of the largest private libraries in the world is alarming. Not since the dark day of almost three quarters of a century ago has anyone witnessed a prosecution which claimed that the possession of books by well known artists were evidence of a crime against the state."

Gavin Arvizo's brother, Star, took the stand early in the trial and claimed to have witnessed two specific acts of molestation but his testimony was completely inconsistent. Regarding one alleged act, he claimed in court that Jackson had been fondling Gavin, but in a previous description of the same incident he told a wildly different story, claiming Jackson had been rubbing his penis against Gavin's buttocks. He also told two different stories about the other alleged act on two consecutive days in court.

During cross examination Jackson's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, showed the boy a copy of Barely Legal and repeatedly asked if it was the specific edition Jackson had shown him and his brother. The boy insisted that it was, only for Mesereau to reveal that it was published in August 2003; five months after the Arvizo family had left Neverland.

But this information went almost entirely unreported, the media focusing on the boy's allegations rather than the cross examination which undermined them. Allegations make good soundbites. Complex cross examination does not.

When Gavin Arvizo took the stand, he claimed that Jackson had instigated the first act of molestation by telling him that all boys had to masturbate or else they would turn into rapists. But Mesereau showed under cross examination that the boy had previously admitted his grandmother made that comment, not Jackson, meaning that the whole molestation story was predicated on a lie.

Under cross examination the boy severely undermined the prosecution's conspiracy charge by claiming he'd never felt afraid at Neverland and he'd never wanted to leave. His accounts of the alleged molestation also differed from his brother's.

Unfortunately for Jackson, Gavin Arvizo's cross examination was all but ignored as newspapers giggled and gossiped about what became known as 'pajama day'. On the first day of the boy's direct examination Jackson slipped in his shower, bruised his lung and was rushed to hospital. When Judge Rodney Melville ordered a bench warrant for Jackson's arrest unless he arrived within an hour, the singer sped to the courthouse in the pajama trousers he'd been wearing when he was rushed to hospital.

The photographs of Jackson in his pajamas went all over the word, often with no mention of Jackson's injury or the reason he was wearing them. Many journalists accused Jackson of faking the entire event in order to gain sympathy, although sympathetic is the last word you'd use to describe the media's reaction.

The incident didn't stop the media from sending Gavin Arvizo's lurid allegations around the world the following day. Some outlets even ran the boy's testimony as fact rather than conjecture. "He Said If Boys Don't Do It They Might Turn Into Rapists - Cancer Boy Gavin Tells Court of Jacko Sex," wrote The Mirror.

But the boy's cross examination was another story. It went almost completely unreported. Instead of stories about Gavin Arvizo's lies and the two brothers' contradictory allegations, newspaper pages were filled with snarky opinion pieces about Jackson's pajamas, even though 'pajama day' had been days previously. Thousands of words were dedicated to whether or not Jackson wore a wig and the Sun even ran an article attacking Jackson for the accessories he pinned to his waistcoats every day. It seemed like the press would write anything to avoid discussing the boy's cross examination, which severely undermined the prosecution's case.

This habit of reporting lurid allegations but ignoring the cross examination which discredited them became a distinct trend throughout Jackson's trial. In an April 2005 interview with Matt Drudge, Fox columnist Roger Friedman explained, "What's not reported is that the cross examination of these witnesses is usually fatal to them." He added that whenever anybody said anything salacious or dramatic about Jackson, the media 'went running outside to report on it' and missed the subsequent cross examination.

Drudge agreed, adding, "You're not hearing how witness after witness is disintegrating on the stand. There is not one witness, at least lately, that hasn't admitted to perjuring themselves in previous proceedings either in this case or in some other case."

This alarming trend of ignoring cross examination was perhaps most apparent in the media's coverage of Kiki Fournier's testimony. Under direct examination by the prosecution, Fournier - a Neverland housekeeper - testified that when at Neverland children often became unruly and she had sometimes seen children so hyperactive that they could, feasibly, have been intoxicated. The media scurried outside to report this apparent bombshell and missed one of the most significant pieces of testimony in the entire trial.

Under cross examination by Thomas Mesereau, Fournier said that during the Arvizo family's final weeks at Neverland - the period during which the molestation supposedly happened - the two boys' guest room had been constantly messy, leading her to believe they'd been sleeping in their own quarters all along - not Michael Jackson's bedroom.

She also testified that Star Arvizo had once pulled a knife on her in the kitchen, explaining that she did not feel it had been intended as a joke and that she thought he'd been 'trying to assert some sort of authority'.

In a devastating blow to the prosecution's increasingly hilarious conspiracy charge, Fournier laughed at the idea that anybody could be held prisoner at Neverland Ranch, telling the jurors that there was no high fence around the property and the family could have walked out at any time 'with ease'.

When Gavin and Star's mother Janet Arvizo took the stand Tom Sneddon was seen with his head in his hands. She claimed that a videotape of herself and her children praising Jackson had been scripted word for word by a German man who barely spoke English. In outtakes she was seen singing Jackson's praises then looking embarrassed and asking if she was being recorded. She said that had been scripted too.

She claimed she'd been held hostage at Neverland even though log books and receipts showed that she'd left the ranch and returned on three occasions during the period of 'captivity'. It became apparent that she was currently under investigation for welfare fraud and had also been falsely obtaining money on the back of her son's illness, holding benefits to pay for his cancer treatment when he was already covered by insurance.

Even the most ardent prosecution supporters had to admit that Janet Arvizo was a disastrous witness for the state. Except Diane Dimond, who in March 2005 seemed to use Janet Arvizo's welfare fraud (she was convicted in the wake of Jackson's trial) as roundabout proof of Jackson's guilt, signing off a New York Post article with the gob smacking line, "Pedophiles don't target kids with Ozzie and Harriet parents."

Watching their case crumble before their eyes, the prosecution applied to the judge for permission to admit evidence of 'prior bad acts'. Permission was granted. Prosecutors told the jury they would hear evidence of five former victims. But those five prior cases turned out to be even more laughable than the Arvizos' claims.

A parade of disgruntled security guards and housekeepers took the stand to testify that they had witnessed molestation, much of it carried out on three boys; Wade Robson, Brett Barnes and Macauley Culkin. But those three boys were the defense's first three witnesses, each of them testifying that Jackson had never touched them and they resented the implication. It should be worth noting that in addition to Wade Robson, Brett Barnes and Macauley Culkin, comedian George Lopez was a key witness and also testified on behalf on Michael Jackson. In original court documents, Lopez revealed that he had met and befriended the Arvizo family through a reknowned foundation for sick children. It wasn’t long before the Arvizo family began making requests and demands from Lopez. According to Lopez’s testimony, he gave the family money but Gavin’s father kept asking for more. When he eventually refused, the family tried to extort money from Lopez by claiming that he has stolen $300 from their home.

Moreover, it was revealed that each of these former employees had been fired by Jackson for stealing from his property or had lost a wrongful termination suit and wound up owing Jackson huge amounts of money. They'd also neglected to tell the police when they supposedly witnessed this molestation, even when questioned in connection with Jordy Chandler's 1993 allegations, but subsequently tried to sell stories to the press - sometimes successfully. The more money on the table, the more salacious the allegations became.

Roger Friedman complained in an interview with Matt Drudge that the media was ignoring the cross examination of the 'prior bad acts' witnesses, resulting in skewed reporting. He said, "When Thursday started, that first hour was with this guy Ralph Chacon who had worked at the Ranch as a security guard. He told the most outrageous story. It was so graphic. And of course everybody went running outside to report on it. But there were ten minutes right before the first break on Thursday when Tom Mesereau got up and cross examined this guy and obliterated him."

The fourth 'victim', Jason Francia, took the stand and claimed that when he was a child, Jackson had molested him on three separate occasions. Pushed for details of the 'molestation', he said Jackson had tickled him three times outside his clothes and he'd needed years of therapy to get over it. The jury was seen rolling their eyes but reporters including Dan Abrams heralded him as 'compelling', predicting that he could be the witness who put Jackson behind bars.

The media repeatedly claimed that Francia's allegations had been made in 1990, leading audiences to believe that the Jordy Chandler allegations were predated. In actuality, although Jason Francia claimed that the acts of molestation occurred in 1990, he didn't report them until after the media storm over Chandler's claims, at which point his mother, Neverland maid Blanca Francia, promptly extracted $20,000 from Hard Copy for an interview with Diane Dimond and another $2.4million in a settlement from Jackson.

Moreover, transcripts from police interviews showed that the Francia had repeatedly changed his story and had originally insisted that he'd never been molested. Transcripts also showed that he only said he was molested after police officers repeatedly overstepped the mark during interviews. Officers repeatedly referred to Jackson as a 'molester'. On one occasion they told the boy that Jackson was molesting Macauley Culkin as they spoke, claiming that the only way they could rescue Culkin was if Francia told them he'd been sexually abused by the star. Transcripts also showed that Francia had previously said of the police, "They made me come up with stuff. They kept pushing. I wanted to hit them in the head."

The fifth 'victim' was Jordy Chandler, who fled the country rather than testify against his former friend. Thomas Mesereau said in a Harvard lecture later that year, "The prosecutors tried to get him to show up and he wouldn't. If he had, I had witnesses who were going to come in and say he told them it never happened and that he would never talk to his parents again for what they made him say. It turned out he'd gone into court and got legal emancipation from his parents."

June Chandler, Jordy's mother, testified that she hadn't spoken to her son in 11 years. Questioned about the 1993 case, she seemed to suffer from a severe case of selective memory. At one point she claimed she couldn't remember being sued by Michael Jackson and at another she said she'd never heard of her own attorney. She also never witnessed any molestation.

When the prosecution rested, the media seemed to lose interest in the trial. The defense case was given comparatively little newspaper space and air time. The Hollywood Reporter, which had been diligently reporting on the Jackson trial, missed out two whole weeks of the defense case. The attitude seemed to be that unless the testimony was graphic and salacious - unless it made a good soundbite - it wasn't worth reporting.

The defense called numerous fantastic witnesses; boys and girls who had stayed with Jackson time and again and never witnessed any inappropriate behavior, employees who had witnessed the Arvizo boys helping themselves to alcohol in Jackson's absence and celebrities who had also been targeted for handouts by the accuser. But little of this testimony was relayed to the public. When DA Tom Sneddon referred to black comic Chris Tucker as 'boy' during his cross examination, the media didn't bat an eyelid.

When both sides rested jurors were told that if they found reasonable doubt, they had to acquit. Anybody who had been paying attention to proceedings could see that the doubt was so far beyond reasonable it wasn't even funny. Almost every single prosecution witness either perjured themselves or wound up helping the defense. There wasn't a shred of evidence connecting Jackson to any crime and there wasn't a single credible witness connecting him to a crime either.

But that didn't stop journalists and pundits from predicting guilty verdicts, CNN's Nancy Grace leading the way. Defense attorney Robert Shapiro, who had once represented the Chandler family, stated with certainty on CNN, "He's going to be convicted." Ex-prosecutor Wendy Murphy told Fox News, "There is no question we will see convictions here."

The hysteria of the fans outside the courthouse was mirrored by that of the reporters who secured seats inside, who were so excitable that Judge Rodney Melville ordered them to 'restrain themselves'. Thomas Mesereau commented retrospectively that the media had been "almost salivating about having [Jackson] hauled off to jail."

When the jury delivered 14 'not guilty' verdicts, the media was 'humiliated', Mesereau said in a subsequent interview. Media analyst Tim Rutten later commented, "So what happened when Jackson was acquitted on all counts? Red faces? Second thoughts? A little soul-searching, perhaps? Maybe one expression of regret for the rush to judgment? Naaawww. The reaction, instead, was rage liberally laced with contempt and the odd puzzled expression. Its targets were the jurors... Hell hath no fury like a cable anchor held up for scorn."

In a post-verdict news conference Sneddon continued to refer to Gavin Arvizo as a 'victim' and said he suspected that the 'celebrity factor' had impeded the jury's judgment - a line many media pundits swiftly appropriated as they set about undermining the jurors and their verdicts.

Within minutes of the announcement, Nancy Grace appeared on CourtTV to allege that jurors had been seduced by Jackson's fame and bizarrely claim that the prosecution's only weak link had been Janet Arvizo.

"I'm having a crow sandwich right now," she said. "It doesn't taste very good. But you know what? I'm also not surprised. I thought that celebrity is such a big factor. When you think you know somebody, when you have watched their concerts, listened to their records, read the lyrics, believed they were coming from somebody's heart... Jackson is very charismatic, although he never took the stand. That has an effect on this jury.

"I'm not gonna throw a stone at the mom, although I think she was the weak link in the state's case, but the reality is I'm not surprised. I thought that the jury would vote in favor of the similar transaction witnesses. Apparently the defense overwhelmed them with the cross-examining of the mother. I think it boils down to that, plain and simple."

Grace later stated that Jackson was 'not guilty by reason of celebrity' and was seen attempting to hound jury foreman Paul Rodriguez into saying he believed Jackson had molested children. One of Grace's guests, psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall, leveled personal attacks towards one female juror, saying, "This is a woman who has no life."

Over on Fox News, Wendy Murphy branded Jackson 'the Teflon molester' and said that the jurors needed IQ tests. She later added, "I really think it's the celebrity factor, not the evidence. I don't think the jurors even understand how influenced they were by who Michael Jackson is... They basically put targets on the backs of all, especially highly vulnerable, kids that will now come into Michael Jackson's life."

Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told CNN that he thought the 'prior bad acts' testimony had been 'effective evidence', even though various boys at the heart of that testimony had taken the stand as defense witnesses and denied ever being molested. He also claimed that the defense had won because "they could tell a story, and juries, you know, always understand stories rather than sort of individual facts."

Only Robert Shapiro was dignified in the face of the verdicts, telling viewers that they should accept the jurors' decision because the jurors were from "a very conservative part of California and if they had no doubt, none of us should have any doubt."

The following day on Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer upheld the notion that the verdict had been influenced by Jackson's celebrity status. "Are you sure?" she pleaded. "Are you sure that this gigantically renowned guy walking into the room had no influence at all?"

The Washington Post commented, "An acquittal doesn't clear his name, it only muddies the water." Both the New York Post and the New York Daily News ran with the snide headline 'Boy, Oh, Boy!'

In her final New York Post article about the trial, Diane Dimond bemoaned the not guilty verdict, saying that it left Michael Jackson untouchable. She wrote, "He walked out of court a free man, not guilty on all counts. But Michael Jackson is so much more than free. He now has carte blanche to live his life any way he wants, with whomever he wants, because who would ever try to prosecute Michael Jackson now?"

In Britain's Sun newspaper, celebrity rent-a-gob and talking head extraordinaire Jane Moore penned an article titled 'If the jury agree Janet Arvizo is a bad mum (and she IS)... How did they let Jackson off?' It began: "Michael Jackson is innocent. Justice has been done. Or so the loony tunes gathered outside the courthouse would have us believe." She went on to question the jurors' mental capacity and dismiss the American legal system as 'half-baked'. "Nothing and no one truly emerges as a winner from this sorry mess," she finished, "least of all what they laughably call American 'justice'."

Sun contributor Ally Ross dismissed Jackson's fans as 'sad, solitary dick-wits'. Another Sun article, penned by daytime TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, titled 'Don't forget the kids still at risk... Jacko's own', overtly labeled Jackson a guilty man. Kelly - who never attended Jackson's trial - bemoaned the fact that Jackson 'got away with it', complaining that "instead of languishing in jail, Jackson is now back home in Neverland." Jackson, she concluded, was "a sad, sick loser who uses his fame and money to dazzle the parents of children he takes a shine to."

After the initial outrage, the Michael Jackson story slipped out of the headlines. There was little analysis of the not guilty verdicts and how they were reached. An acquittal was considered less profitable than a conviction.

Indeed, Thomas Mesereau said in later years that if Jackson had been convicted it would have created a 'cottage industry' for the media, generating a story a day for years to come. Long-running sagas like custody of Jackson's children, control of his financial empire, other 'victims' filing civil suits and the long-winded appeals process would have generated thousands of stories each for months, years, perhaps even decades.

Jackson's imprisonment would have created a never ending supply of gratuitous headlines; Who is visiting? Who isn't? Is he in solitary confinement? If not, who are his cellmates? What about his prison wardens? Does he have a prison pen-pal girlfriend? Can we fly a helicopter over the prison yard and film him exercising? The possibilities were endless. A bidding war was raging over who would get the first leaked images of Jackson in his cell before the jury even began its deliberations.

A not guilty verdict was not quite so lucrative. In an interview with Newsweek, CNN boss Jonathan Klein recalled watching the not guilty verdicts come in and then telling his deputies, "We have a less interesting story now." The Hollywood Reporter noted that hastily assembled TV specials about Jackson's acquittal performed badly and were beaten in the ratings by a re-run of Nanny 911.

The story was over. There were no apologies and no retractions. There was no scrutiny - no inquiries or investigations. Nobody was held to account for what was done to Michael Jackson. The media was content to let people go on believing their heavily skewed and borderline fictitious account of the trial. That was that.

When Michael Jackson died the media went into overdrive again. What drugs had killed him? How long had he been using them? Who had prescribed them? What else was in his system? How much did he weigh?

But there was one question nobody seemed to want to ask: Why?

Why was Michael Jackson so stressed and so paranoid that he couldn't even get a decent night's sleep unless somebody stuck a tube full of anesthetic into his arm? I think the answer can be found in the results of various polls conducted in the wake of Michael Jackson's trial.

A poll conducted by Gallup in the hours after the verdict showed that 54% of White Americans and 48% of the overall population disagreed with the jury's decision of 'not guilty'. The poll also found that 62% of people felt Jackson's celebrity status was instrumental in the verdicts. 34% said they were 'saddened' by the verdict and 24% said they were 'outraged'. In a Fox News poll 37% of voters said the verdict was 'wrong' while an additional 25% said 'celebrities buy justice'. A poll by People Weekly found that a staggering 88% of readers disagreed with the jury's decision.

The media did a number on its audience and it did a number on Jackson. After battling his way through an exhausting and horrifying trial, riddled with hideous accusations and character assassinations, Michael Jackson should have felt vindicated when the jury delivered 14 unanimous not guilty verdicts. But the media's irresponsible coverage of the trial made it impossible for Jackson to ever feel truly vindicated. The legal system may have declared him innocent but the public, on the whole, still thought otherwise. Allegations which were disproven in court went unchallenged in the press. Shaky testimony was presented as fact. The defense's case was all but ignored.

When asked about those who doubted the verdicts, the jury replied, "They didn't see what we saw."

They're right. We didn't. But we should have done. And those who refused to tell us remain in their jobs unchecked, unpunished and free to do exactly the same thing to anybody they desire.

Now that's what I call injustice.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On Vuvuzela's, The Cold, Objectification & Soundtracks

So far, this World Cup has been quite amusing and filled with controversy. I'm just happy that theres been enough talking about it  (being less of a talker and more of a do-er, I can get very impatient and irritated with the whole build-up to events) and that its finally here. Everything from the ball, altitude, and Vuvuzela’s have been blamed for the player’s performances – or lack thereof – and we’ve had more draws than Cher has wigs. Now I’m not a Vuvuzela fan, I don’t own one and I’m not looking to either BUT the way I see it, these players either CAN or CAN’T play football and if they CAN’T then they shouldn’t be playing the blame game. I personally believe that they’re still acclimatizing to SA, getting used to the pitch, adapting to the conditions, etc. etc.

I can't seem to wrap my mind around the Vuvuzela issue. People say its annoying and they can't concentrate etc. but I just saw a couple of Brazilians with huge mofo drums in the stadium and judging from their demeanor, it occurs on the regular. So why ban the Vuvuzela but allow gigantic drums - surely they both more or less make an equal amount of noise? I wonder about those complaining... is it because they're not used to it, or is it because they didn't invent it? Europe is weird like that. They will happily discard anything they don't  like or disagree with unless it was them that were intrumental in its inception... and if they happen to be at the front-lines of any innovation, they automatically "love" and accept it, no matter how ludicrous it may be (this is just a generalisation by the way, no need to get your knickers in a twist).

At the moment it’s 11:50pm and I’m downloading Wham’s “Everything She Wants” because it’s a childhood favourite in my song pile, and I’ve been humming it all week, and it’s the one song of theirs that I don’t have on iTunes.

The thermometer says -2˚ degrees Celsius (already) and we’re in for a cold couple of days – the coldest days we’ve had in a long time. A normal winter day in Johannesburg in the middle of winter hovers between 18˚ and 22˚ degrees Celsius. Tomorrow it’s looking like the mercury won’t go above 9˚ or 10˚.

I watched Brazil beat Korea DPR 2 goals to 1 in tonights match and while I wasn’t really interested in the game for obvious shallow reasons, I still can’t help but feel bad for Korea. Thing is, I don’t like seeing people loose, especially when they put so much heart and soul into their game. And even if I don’t support the team, it feels like a personal loss for me. I’m… what’s the word… sensitive like that. That’s why I choose to watch the games for superficial reasons – Canavarro being superficial reason #1 – so that I don’t get too emotionally involved.

The last time I was emotionally involved in a game, was when Roberto Baggio failed to deliver that goal at the penalty shoot-out back in 1994 (I loved him ok!?!, we were supposed to get married!!). I was wrecked and tormented for months, years, after that! I didn't want to become one of those fans that cry everytime Juventus loose *snigger*. That’s when I realised that there’s just too much of me invested in something that’s so emotionally ruthless and fleeting and that I’d be better off enjoying it for what it really is… a bunch of beautiful sweaty emotional men with fine muscular asses. 

Now it may sound like I’m “objectifying” men, as a male friend pointed out recently, but let me explain. See, for 3 years and 11 months straight, us women have to put up with all kinds of “objectification”. The innumerable ads on TV that use half-naked women to sell their products or services; the countless magazines that brainwash and condition society to believe that the perfect woman is tall, blonde, white, and a size (minus) -4 and that we’ll never match up no matter how hard we try; and just the nature of most men ogling and staring at everything that wears a skirt; all of which is but a fraction of what we have to go through day-in-day-out… the extent of our “objectification”.

But then, just when we think that this cruel world was only meant for ogres and men alike, reprieve and deliverance comes in the form of a testosterone fueled month where we women get to do all the ogling and swooning and gawking in admiration. For these 30 days, hundreds of God’s gifts to women-kind descend and we get to witness the male form at its finest. And if you’re wondering why don’t we just watch UEFA or PSL all the other months of the year… it’s just NOT the same ok. It’s like passing up Miss Universe for Miss Kentucky’s inbred second cousin. This is The World Cup, anything less will not do and this is OUR month, men have the 3 years and 11 months leading up to this to go bonkers. Look at the menu, but don’t order… and for you married folk, look at the menu but eat at home innit.

Anyways, I’ve been having so much fun over the last few days, it’s ridiculous. I’ve actually had to schedule a “night off” so that I can rest and hopefully recover from this demonic flu. I’ve met so many wonderful  people in this short span of time… but its late, I’m doped up on meds to get better and therefore my escapades will have to wait for another time.

Oh and for those invested in my very personal and love-life on my private blog… I’m aware that a post is long over-due but that too will have to wait for another day… soon… maybe tomorrow… or Thursday…

I just heard Shakira and Waka Waka (the official FIFA World Cup 2010 anthem) blaring from someone’s stereo as they drove by (yeah I know, like they don't have something else to do at this hour, in this  miserable weather)  and I must say that I don’t think it’s bad, but I don’t think that it’s good either. Mediocre at best although I can understand what they were trying to achieve. For me, the soundtrack to anything is important… because it captures the very essence of the moment and every time you hear that particular song, it takes you right back to that time, so it has to be good.


My favourite World Cup effort thus far would have to be Ricky Martin’s “La Copa De La Vida” or “The Cup of Life” in English.


I even think that Bellini’s “Samba de Janeiro” was apt.


For me, these are by far much better contenders… these are the songs that will forever remind me of this time, this place, this moment:

Velile & Safri Duo – Helele (Safri Duo Single Mix)


K’naan & David Bisbal – Wavin’ Flag


Edward Maya ft. Vika Jigulina – Stereo Love


Right. Off to bed.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Day In Pictures: Pre-World Cup

I should be in bed. Doctor’s orders, given that I’ve been unable to shake this fever, clogged nose, brain diarrhea, wheezing cough, zapped limbs and what-not. But there are just too many things to do… too much to see… to many people to meet… and SO little time!

I’ve been given a few weeks off from work for the World Cup and have decided to bide my time constructively (as constructive as I can be anyway). This means that I've been on the prowl for lost and confused tourists to help them get around the vast expanse called Johannesburg. Its easy to spot the lost and confused foreigners. They're usually the ones standing in a circle with a map in hand, pointing in various directions and arguing with each other. So far my activities have included driving a few Mexicans (trust the Mexicans to be the ones getting me out of my social networking “mexicoma”), Serbians, Argentinians and Americans to their required destinations in and around Johannesburg and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people along the way.

For me, this epitomizes what the World Cup is about, meeting hundreds of foreigners from all over the world, all coming together for a single event, engaging in conversation, getting to know who they are and what they’re about and forming inexplicable connections based on the premise that we’re all so different, yet exactly the same. We need and want the same things. It’s utterly fascinating and I could literally spend my entire life wandering from place to place, just talking to different people… words cannot encapsulate how much I love it.

So for the next few weeks, I don’t really care who wins or looses, I’ll just be out and about, meeting tourists from almost every part of the world, forming new connections and helping out where ever I can. I have offered to assist by driving those lost and confused foreign individuals to any destination in and around Johannesburg and the surrounding areas, as well as providing accommodation to any foreigner / tourist who is struggling to find decent accomodation… all for FREE. GRATIS. MAHALA. NADA. It’s my contribution to the world, so if you know any visitor in need of a good nights sleep, a shower and a meal… or if they are lost and confused and need to get to Soccer City etc. and don’t know how to… I’d be glad to assist and drive them to any venue in Gauteng, as well as provide essential Jo’burg survival tips and mini amateur tours of the city.

That said, I was inspired by Mezba’s post titled “This week in Toronto through a cellphone camera” and wanted to do something similar for some time now. Then a few days ago, I came across The Boston Globe’s tribute to the World Cup, which is a series of photographs taken all over the country chronicling the days before the World Cup kicks off. So I thought of amalgamating the two ideas to create my own amature  documentary and on Wednesday, two days before South Africa was due to play Mexico in the opening match of World Cup, I hit the streets with a Sony Digital and a Nokia Cellphone Camera, and this is a pictorial journal of that journey:

05:40am - Rise and shine. I prefer hiding under the covers with red sleepy eyes. I didn't want to get out of bed because of the cold and chose this pic so that no one has to see the horrid state of my hair in the morning.
 
09:27am - Off into the suburbs. Beautiful day, 22 degrees celcius, not bad for mid-winter. The streets of Auckland Park are quiet.

10:12am - Stopped briefly at Campus Square Mall and left for Melville, running errands.

11:53am - Downtown in Doornfontein, on the other side of Johannesburg city, people line the streets as they prepare to show their support for the South African team, Bafana Bafana, in a two-hour vuvuzela-blowing noise fest.

1:45pm - Due to the high volumes of traffic, we waited a while before hitting the M1 North Highway to Melrose Arch. The Beams supporting the structure are painted in the SA flag colours.

2:10pm - Melrose Arch acting as the Mexican home base for the team and their supporters.

2:18pm - The Angle of Independance was especially imported from Mexico to bring the team good luck and will stay here for the duration of the World Cup.

2:29pm - A reporter from Fox Sport gathered with enthusiatic Mexican supporters.

2:55pm - A South African supporter and Mexican supporter square off, showing their support for their respective teams in a good-natured, humourous fight bringing-the-noise.

3:13pm - More supporters, mostly Mexican and some Argentinians, lounge around and dine in Melrose Arch at the various resturants surrounding the square.

3:25pm - Walking through Melrose Arch to other precincts. The businesses, boutiques and shops were open but quiet as most people lobbied around resturants and in the square socialising and celebrating.

3:30pm - More people suddenly visible.

3:32pm - Melrose Arch is a Fan Park venue and technicians, organisers and press were hard at work setting up the screen etc.

3:50pm - On the way to Sandton, passing by a street vendor selling SA flags at the traffic light.

4:12pm - Taking a back road through the suburb Illovo means that we're there in no time, skipping all the traffic.

4:25pm - In Sandton City Mall, department store Stuttarfords show their support to the FIFA World Cup 2010 with a display at the entrance.

4:34pm - Outside, in Nelson Mandela Square, a sea of fans and supporters from various countries gather to sing and make a noise with press and media from all over the world.

4:36pm - ESPN set up a studio in the square to cover the event.

4:38pm - Hoards of people and supporters in great spirits walk by the newly erected Sony 3D Arcade, in honour of the World Cup, in the middle of the Square.

5:00pm - Fast approaching dusk in the winter sky.

5:07pm - Mexican supporters with a larger-than-life statue of Nelson Mandela in the background.

5:11pm - Don't know who she is, but alot of the Mexicans were asking to take a pic with her. Must be a famous reporter.

5:21pm - Inside at Latte-licious having a coffee break. I don't linger outside at dusk as part of my religious beliefs.

6:09pm - The parking lot is an excellent place to make Salaah if anyone wants to know. Walking through the Mall at Sandton once again.

6:28pm - Dragged inside the Sony 3D Arcade by enthusiastic sister. Was surprised that we didn't need any tickets and that it was free.

6:45pm - Waiting to watch the World Cup theme song 'Waka Waka' by Shakira ft Freshlyground in 3D, amongst other stuff.

8:04pm - The Sandton skyline at night.

8:31pm - Decided to drive by Soccer City on our way home. Johannesburg's star stadium is where the opening and closing of the FIFA World Cup will occur.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hide & Seek

Where have I been and what have I been doing?

a) Swooooooooooooning :)

b) Working in an office heated to 32 degrees celcius

b) Sick, coughing my lungs out

c) Busy with examinations

d) Stuffing my face with delicious burgers

e) Appreciating The Almighty's Grace and Mercy through the creation of some men

f) Knitting a wooly fluffy scarf

g) Being a good host

h) Stalking Mexicans

i) All of the above


The Answer is i) =D

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Getting Down, Down, Down, Down...

Lets get one thing straight. I DO NOT like football or soccer or any sport that involves a ball and a couple dozen crazy-ass men.

But I DO like gazing at a couple dozen half-naked sweaty emotional men with fine muscular asses. I'll have a tall glass of hunk on the rocks, thanks. (Me likes, ALOT. It's almost as good as counting a shit-load of money... that belongs to you).

So it's upon us. And SA I'm happy for you, I really am. But I think I'm allergic to over-exposure. So I kinda-can't-wait for it to end... or they should, at the very least, provide some serious stalking incentives to make it worthwhile (Portugal, I know where you live. I have room numbers. Spain you too... run like your hair's on fire).

That said, I can still appreciate the excitement this ad generates. Props to Telkom for doing SOMETHING right, for once (useless bloody scoundrels).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Once Upon A Time In Zion

And there were the Jews: indigenous Jews, wearing a tarbush and a wide, voluminous cloak, in their facial type strongly resembling the Arabs; Jews from Poland and Russia, who seemed to carry with them so much of the smallness and narrowness of their past lives in Europe that it was surprising to think they claimed to be of the same stock as the proud Jew from Morocco or Tunisia in his white burnus. But although the European Jews were so obviously out of all harmony with the picture that surrounded them, it was they who set the tone of Jewish life and politics and thus seemed to be responsible for the almost visible friction between Jews and Arabs.

What did the average European know of the Arabs in those days? Practically nothing. When he came to the Near East he brought with him some romantic and erroneous notions; and if he was well intentioned and intellectually honest, he had to admit that he had no idea at all about the Arabs. I too, before I came to Palestine, had never thought of it as an Arab land. I had of course, vaguely known that ‘some’ Arabs lived there, but I imagined them to be only nomads in desert tents and idyllic oasis dwellers. Because most of what I had read about Palestine in earlier days had been written by Zionists – who naturally only had their own problems in view – I had not realised that the towns also were full of Arabs – that, in fact, in 1922 there lived in Palestine nearly five Arabs to every Jew, and that, therefore, it was an Arab country to a far higher degree, than a country of Jews.

When I remarked on this to Mr. Ussyshkin, chairman of the Zionist Committee of Action, whom I met during that time, I had the impression that the Zionists were not inclined to give much consideration to the fact of Arab majority; nor did they seem to attribute any real importance to the Arabs’ opposition to Zionism. Mr. Ussyshkin’s response showed nothing but contempt for the Arabs:

There is no real Arab movement here against us; that is, no movement with roots in the people. All that you regard as opposition is in reality nothing but the shouting of a few disgruntled agitators. It will collapse of itself within a few months or at most a few years.’

This argument was far from satisfactory to me. From the very beginning, I had a feeling that the whole idea of Jewish settlement in Palestine was artificial, and, what was worse, that it threatened to transfer all the complications and insoluble problems of European life into a country which might have remained happier without them. The Jews were not really coming to it as one returns to one’s homeland; they were rather bent on making it into a homeland conceived on European patterns and with European aims.

In short, they were strangers within the gates. And so I did not find anything wrong in the Arabs’ determined resistance to the idea of a Jewish homeland in their midst; on the contrary, I immediately realised that it was the Arabs’ who were being imposed upon and were rightly defending themselves against such an imposition.

In the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which promised the Jews a ‘national home’ in Palestine, I saw a cruel political manoeuvre designed to foster the old principle, common to all colonial powers, of ‘divide and rule’. In the case of Palestine, this principle was the more flagrant as in 1916 the British had promised the then ruler of Mecca, Sharif Husayn, as a price for his help against the Turks, an independent Arab state which was to comprise all countries between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. They not only broke their promise a year later by concluding with France the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement (which established French Dominion over Syria and Lebanon) but also, by implication, excluded Palestine from the obligations they had assumed with regard to the Arabs.

Although of Jewish origin myself, I conceived from the outset a strong objection to Zionism. Apart from my personal sympathy for the Arabs, I considered it immoral that immigrants, assisted by a foreign Great Power, should come from abroad with the avowed intention of attaining to majority in the country and thus to dispossess the people whose country it had been since time immemorial. Consequently, I was inclined to take the side of the Arabs whenever the Jewish-Arab question was brought up – which, of course, happened very often. This attitude of mine was beyond the comprehension of practically all the Jews with whom I came into contact during those months.

They could not understand what I saw in the Arabs who, according to them, were no more than a mass of backward people whom they looked upon with a feeling not much different from that of the European settlers in Central Africa. They were not in the least interested in what the Arabs thought; almost none of them took pains to learn Arabic; and everyone accepted without question the dictum that Palestine was the rightful heritage of the Jews.

I can still remember a brief discussion I had on this score with Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the undisputed leader of the Zionist movement. He had come on one of his periodic visits to Palestine (his permanent residence was, I believe, in London), and I met him in the house of a Jewish friend. One could not but be impressed by the boundless energy of this man – an energy that manifested itself even in his bodily movements, in the long, springy stride with which he paced up and down the room – and by the power of intellect revealed in the broad forehead and the penetrating glance of his eyes.

He was talking of the financial difficulties which were besetting the dream of a Jewish National Home, and the insufficient response to this dream among people abroad; and I had the disturbing impression that even he, like most of the other Zionists, was inclined to transfer the moral responsibility for all that was happening in Palestine to the ‘outside world’. This impelled me to break through the deferential hush with which all the other people present were listening to him, and to ask:

‘And what about the Arabs?’

I must have committed a faux pas by thus brining a jarring note into the conversation, for Dr. Weizmann turned his face slowly toward me, put down the cup he had been holding in his hand, and repeated my question:

‘What about the Arabs…?’

‘Well – how can you ever hope to make Palestine your homeland in the face of the vehement opposition of the Arabs who, after all, are in the majority in this country?’

The Zionist leader shrugged his shoulders and answered drily:
‘We expect they won’t be in a majority after a few years.’

‘Perhaps so. You have been dealing with this problem for years and must know the situation better than I do. But quite apart from the political difficulties which Arab opposition may or may not put in your way – does not the moral aspect of the question ever bother you? Don’t you think that it is wrong on your part to displace the people who have always lived in this country?’.

‘But it is our country,’ replied Dr. Weizmann, raising his eyebrows. ‘We are doing no more than taking back what we have been wrongly deprived of’.

‘But you have been away from Palestine for nearly two thousand years! Before that you had ruled this country, and hardly ever the whole of it, for less than five hundred years. Don’t you think the Arabs could, with equal justification, demand Spain for themselves – for, after all, they held sway in Spain for nearly seven hundred years and lost it entirely only five hundred years ago?’

Dr. Weizmann became visibly impatient: ‘Nonsense. The Arabs had only conquered Spain; it had never been their original homeland, and so it was only right that in the end they were driven out by the Spainards.’

‘Forgive me,’ I retorted, ‘but it seems to me that there is some historical oversight here. After all, the Hebrews also came as conquerors to Palestine. Long before them there were many other Semitic and non-Semitic tribes settled here – the Amorites, the Edomites, the Philistines, the Moabites, the Hittites. Those tribes continued living here even in the days of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. They continued living here after the Romans drove our ancestors away. They are living here today. The Arabs who settled in Syria and Palestine after their conquest in the seventh century were always only a small minority of the population; the rest of what we describe today as Palestinian or Syrian “Arabs” are in reality only the Arabianized, original inhabitants of the country. Some of them became Muslims in the course of the centuries, others remained Christians; the Muslims naturally inter-married with their co-religionists from Arabia. But can you deny that the bulkof those people in Palestine, who speak Arabic, whether Muslims or Christians, are direct-line descendants of the original inhabitants: original in the sense of having lived in this country centuries before Hebrews came to it?’

Dr. Weizmann smiled politely at my outburst and turned the conversation to other topics…

I had many friends in Palestine, both Jews and Arabs… But not all Jews living in Palestine at that time were Zionists. Some of them had come there not in pursuit of a political aim, but out of a religious longing for the Holy Land and its Biblical associations. To this group belonged my Dutch friend Jacob de Haan, [who] had formerly taught law at one of the leading universities in Holland and was now special correspondent of the Amsterdam Handels-blad and the London Daily Express. A man of deep religious convictions – as ‘orthodox’ as any Jew of Eastern Europe – he did not approve of the idea of Zionism, for he believed that the return of his people to the Promised Land had to await the coming of the Messiah.

‘We Jews’, he said to me on more than one occasion, ‘were driven away from the Holy Land and scattered all over the world because we had fallen short of the task God had conferred upon us. We had been chosen by Him to preach His Word, but in our stubborn pride we began to believe that He had made us a “chosen nation” for our own sakes – and thus we betrayed Him. Now nothing remains for us but to repent and to cleanse our hearts; and when we become worthy once again to be the hearers of His Message, He will send a Messiah to lead His servants back to the Promised Land…’

‘But,’ I asked, ‘does not this Messianic idea underlie the Zionist movement as well? You know that I do not approve of it: but is it not a natural desire of every people to have a national home of its own?’

Dr. de Haan looked at me quizzically: ‘Do you think that history is but a series of accidents? I don’t. It was not without a purpose that God made us lose our land and dispersed us; but the Zionists do not want to admit this to themselves. They suffer from the same spiritual blindness that caused our downfall. The two thousand years of Jewish exile and unhappiness have taught them nothing. Instead of making an attempt to understand the innermost causes of our unhappiness, they now try to circumvent it, as it were, by building a “national home” on foundations provided by Western power politics; and in the process of building a national home, they are committing the crime of depriving another people of its home.’
~ 'Road to Makkah' by Leopold Weiss aka Muhammad Asad (1900 - 1992) 


Judaism condemns Zionist atrocities: Wednesday 2 June 2010, New York City.