One World, One Dream

Yesterday, I watched the Olympic Games opening ceremony along with 2,999,999,999 others. Not all in my lounge, obviously; that would have been a squash and a squeeze.
Anyway, it was fairly impressive stuff. Lots of flashy lights, a myriad of people running about in unison, a few people in weird costumes, some people attached to wires which made it look a bit like they were flying if you ignored the wires and so on. Oh, and some fireworks.


Attention!

So obviously very different from every other opening ceremony for a big sporting event. Right.

What was different about Beijing 2008’s opening night was the fact that it cost (according to the SABC’s coverage, anyway) about $75m (US) to stage. Which made me wonder how exactly it adhered to the One World, One Dream motto of this particular Olympiad. Kevin Mitchell sums it up nicely:

This opening of the 29th Olympic Games was an orchestrated marriage of superstition and military precision on a scale only a one-party state could deliver with such confidence. It was a show not so much riveting because of its artistic merit (which was considerable) but the self-conscious reaching for grandeur that has become the Olympic movement’s parodic symbol of excess.

And the official Beijing 2008 site states:

“One World One Dream” fully reflects the essence and the universal values of the Olympic spirit – Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream. It expresses the common wishes of people all over the world, inspired by the Olympic ideals, to strive for a bright future of Mankind.

While I’m all for the Olympics and their ideals – though I recognise that they are very rarely seen outside the couple of weeks of competition every four years – I would imagine that a large chunk of the world’s population would probably have different universal values. Like Food, Shelter, Housing and Safety, for example. Ironically, I would also guess that most of this group were the ones who weren’t able to watch yesterday.
This “Other World” doesn’t fit for the Beijing Olympics though; it’s ugly and awkward to deal with while they’re splashing out millions on fancy fireworks and Sarah Brightman. And so, like so much else, it is being swept under the carpet and conveniently ignored for the next two weeks.

Zuma “shocked and embarrassed”

Not by allegations that he showers to protect himself from HIV, nor by his pending corruption charges, but by white poverty in South Africa.

The head of South Africa’s governing African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, has said he is shocked and embarrassed about white poverty in the country.
Mr Zuma was speaking after visiting the Bethlehem township near the capital, Pretoria, where white families live without running water or electricity.
He said the high level of black poverty did not mean whites did not suffer too.

Yes, in this country famed for its haves and have-nots, traditionally divided among racial lines, there has been a blurring, with an estimated 131,000 white individuals classed as homeless. Of course, this number is tiny compared to the number of black people in the same situation, but that still doesn’t make it right or any easier for those who are struggling. In raising this “awkward” issue, JZ is once again making all the right noises and appealing to potential white voters with the election coming up next year.
Does he really care? Who can say?

I, for one, refuse to believe the ZumaRuma™ merchants who can see no good in the ANC President. While I sometimes feel that he is playing a clever political game – he’s talking a lot about issues that matter to South Africans, but actually promising very little – I don’t think that he is an evil, white-hating racist as some would have us believe. I think he is more grounded and in touch with the population than Thabo Mbeki is or ever has been – and that’s a good sign in someone who, it seems, will be the President of the Republic from next year.

He does have some baggage though, obviously. Primarily his corruption trial* which, despite a myriad of delays and stalling, will raise its ugly head again over the next few months (next thrilling installment August 4th).
However, rapidly moving up to become Zuma’s second biggest suitcase is ANCYL President Julius Malema. Just as soon as JZ pacifies the whities, his sycophantic lapdog Malema alienates them again by saying something daft or inflammatory. After his somewhat ill-advised “kill for Zuma” comments last month, he moved on in spectacularly idiotic style yesterday, suggesting that JZ could rule the country from prison

We can’t imagine the courts finding (Zuma) guilty because, if you arrest him, he will lead us from prison. We are not afraid to be led by a president in orange clothes.
If you want to save yourselves the embarrassment you must drop the charges, because arresting him will not stop him from being the president.
There is no other candidate.

Am I alone in thinking that Julius was surprised to get a laugh when he said that? What’s the betting that he was stone-cold serious? One wonders if, behind the scenes, he’s been working out how to get world leaders to come to Pollsmoor Prison to conduct their business and setting up a video link to the UN, “just in case”.

However, the tide is growing for the charges against Zuma to be dropped. Not just because Julius loves him and doesn’t think he did anything wrong, because they’re rubbish reasons, but for the more serious reason that it would almost certainly be catastrophic for the country and the economy if he were to be found guilty and then take office as President. Or take office as President and then be found guilty.

So perhaps Zuma should not run for President? Or is it a case of better the devil you know?
Because Malema the Suitcase actually got one thing spot on: There is no other candidate.

So where do we go from here?
I don’t mind admitting that I’m a bit stuck on that one right now.

* Actually, to be precise, it’s a corruption, racketeering, money laundering and fraud trial.

A money-making sideline

Completely ignoring the thoughts of flame-haired gyppo Mick Hucknall, I chose to mention just how tight money was in SA right now. Sitting watching the footy last night as prices around me continued to rise, I could see only one way out of the situation: sell our son.

Flushed with self-pride and bored with Greece’s lack of ambition, I ran to my wife and explained my brilliant plan. When I came round ten minutes later, I had a headache, my right wrist had been secured to the heater on the bedroom wall and my wife had locked herself and the boy in the nursery. Struggling to get myself off the floor, I contemplated the potential value of adding my wife to the deal. It was only after pulling the heater off the wall (I had only used rudimentary means of attaching it to the wall in case of just such an emergency) that I realised I should probably just have untied my wrist. Bugger.

I eventually talked them out of the nursery by using SWAT negotiation tactics that I learned on Discovery Channel. Well, that and pizza.
As they emerged, my wife handed me the boy and told me to blow his nose. Glancing down at his offending facial appendage, I was appalled to see what I could only imagine was the aftermath of an explosion at a pea soup factory. Evidently, it was actually the thought of drowning in snot rather than my agreeing to a helicopter and a fast car at the border which had forced my wife’s hand during the hostage episode.

Removing the rivers of green exudate from the boy’s top lip proved unexpectedly tough. It was sticky like glue, stringy like mozzarella, and clingy and difficult to get rid of like a couple of my ex-girlfriends.
It was then that my second idea hit me. Sell snot.
South Africans are bizarrely proud to have had a product called “Pratley’s Putty” developed within their borders. Pratley (Pty) Ltd supply “DIY Epoxies, Acrylic Adhesives, Anaerobic Adhesives, Cyanoacrylates, Sealants, Hybrid systems and Special Performance industrial adhesives” to home users across the Cape Flats. Their putty is marketed as “the only South African product to have gone to the moon” – presumably passing some of their less salubrious customers in the troposphere as it did so.
So there’s definitely a market out there for sticky stuff. And thanks to the continuing viral adventures of the little one, I’ve got litres of it.

Continuing with the space theme, it could be used to stick those errant tiles onto the Space Shuttle. Or as a sealant around the booster rocket joints. That’s 14 astronauts we could have saved already.
Closer to home, snot could be used as a non-lethal weapon to spray over mobs intent on xenophobic violence, thus immobilising them.
Tanks of it (in patriotic green) could be used for resistance training for the South African rugby team, or to drown Graeme Smith and Benni McCarthy in.

I’m sure there are a myriad of uses for this innovative and versatile product which I have not yet considered. There’s got to be some sort of waterproofing agent in there somewhere – and a kid’s toy. And maybe a foodstuff too.

I’ll have a quick sniff of Pratley’s finest and see what comes to mind.

It’s beginning to hurt

More and more of the column inches of the newspapers in South Africa are being devoted to inflation, interest rates, petrol prices and the cost of living. While the entire world is suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous oil prices and the so called “credit crunch”, South Africa – as a developing economy – has taken a harder hit than most.

Being a weaker currency than those of the developed economies, our Rand has taken a bit of a battering. This means that imported goods are more expensive – and that includes oil. And – as you may know (unless you’ve been hiding out in a cave with Osama) – oil has also been going up pretty quickly anyway.
The effect of this is known in economic circles as “compound misery”.
So – because everything costs more to produce – inflation goes up, the Reserve Bank tries to stop people buying things by increasing interest rates and eventually, we all end up living on the grass we’ve been growing in our back gardens. (Stop sniggering at the back).

We’ve been hearing about this for a long time now. But it’s only in the last couple of months that it seems to really be hitting home for the general population. It’s as if a line has been crossed.  Car sales are down 23% year on year. The housing market has stopped completely* in a way that would have the average Daily Mail reader contemplating suicide (oh go on then – if you must).
And then this from the Southern Suburbs biggest shopping mall on a Sunday lunchtime:

 
Cavendish Square – not square and not full

And yes – all the shops were open. It’s just that no-one has any money to spend in them.

We’ve been told to expect it to get worse before it gets better.
One wonders just how much worse we can manage.

* Although the headline “R110-million for SA’s priciest flat” might make you think otherwise…