Cute animal bubbles and happy things

Sometimes the antidotes to all the tragedy and darkness we see in social media in response to world events are cute animal bubbles and other happy things. At least, that is what my wife suggests.

There are days when the world seems to be the equivalent of a Monday morning without coffee. My wife’s answer to these sorts of days and the accompanying deluge of darkness and misery on social media is bubbles:

So instead of getting rid of the baby with the bath water I’m adding bubbles. Lots and lots of happy, shiny bubbles. OK, mostly accounts involving adorably cute animals. Cute animal bubbles!

Sometimes bubbles are just what we need. That and to ignore social media for a while.

This also helps:

Image credit: Clem Onojeghuo

"I wear a Magen David because I am not too small to fight"

The last few weeks have been challenging times for Jews worldwide, particularly here in South Africa where we have been spared the growing anti-Semitism that has gripped much of Europe and other parts of the world. The Israeli campaign in Gaza has inspired tremendous opposition to Israel and its ongoing fight to protect its citizens and continue to thrive. Collectively, as Jews, we are probably under the biggest threat we have faced since the Second World War.

I came across an article by Mayim Bialik titled “Why I Wear My Jewish Star” which is a wonderful reminder why we should continue to be proud of who we are even if it seems like the rest of the world is against us. This part, in particular, captures so much of the essence of who we are, at least for me:

Magen David literally translates to Shield of David. The historical King David defeated a giant when he was just a boy, a shepherd even. He was not from a line of kings. He was a flawed hero: He sent a man to the front lines of a war so he could seduce the man’s wife. He was not perfect. But he was the first king to unify Israel. He was a poet, credited with writing the Psalms of the Old Testament.

I wear a Magen David because I am not too small to fight. I am not from too modest an origin to rise up and try to inspire in my own small way. I am not too boastful to be humbled, and I am not so right that I can never be wrong.

That’s the legacy I hail from. That’s what it means to me to wear my Jewish star.

Israel’s operation in Gaza is not causing deep-seated prejudices, it is revealing them

From “Anti-Israel Protests Make the Case for Israel“:

Israel’s operation in Gaza is not causing deep-seated prejudices, it is revealing them. And behind all of that hatred lies the need for Israel—the case for Jewish sovereignty is the case for Jewish safety.

Could the old Apartheid government have saved us from Zuma's ANC?

Someone I was chatting to after the 2014 elections, last week, made an interesting comment. He said that if the old Apartheid-era National Party had educated all South Africans better (and not just white South Africans), the ANC under Jacob Zuma would have had a more challenging time selling themselves with all the corruption in the ANC’s ranks.

Interesting argument but I suspect that if the old Nationalist government had education non-white South Africans better, that government wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. We may have dodged the Zuma bullet if Apartheid ended sooner but then again, it probably wouldn’t have been necessary for the ANC to have become what it became to defeat the old regime.

The ANC Abuses Its Power To Protect Its Control

I just read an article in Mail & Guardian titled ANC at pains to silence booing and noticed this stark reminder that the ANC sees itself as synonymous with the State and has no difficulty using national intelligence agencies to retain power:

At the time, ANC insiders said that a team of state intelligence operatives and police officers had been dispatched to Mpumalanga from as early as December to do groundwork and counter any move by Zuma’s detractors to embarrass him.

The ANC is not the government. It is a majority party and has the power to appoint the government but that government is responsible for protecting all South Africans’ interests.

Why I hope the DA has a chance to govern

The Democratic Alliance published its follow-up to the original Ayisafani ad which the SABC banned. Even taking into account that this is an ad and portrays the DA in a brilliant light, I love the energy in this ad and I want to see the DA govern more of South Africa for the next 5 years. I especially want to see what Mmusi Maimane can do for Gauteng.

Update (2014-04-30): I noticed this tweet moments after I published my post:

This is how a public broadcaster slaved to an insecure ruling party behaves.

A parable about hubris and an ongoing digital tragedy

Row of Postal Clerks Processing Mail

This post was originally published on Medium

It feels like a lifetime since the Pushers left and the Communicators stepped up. Before then, the Pushers shaped the Message, told us how we would feel about their brand, their products and services. We either accepted what we were told or, well, we didn’t have much choice.

Then, it all began to change. The Manifesto taught us that “markets are conversations” and even though the Manifesto was soon overlooked by a younger generation, its central social message persisted and shaped our interactions with brands. This new generation, the Communicators, began to explore what a more collaborative, engaged conversation would sound like, feel like and what it could do for brands desperate for attention in an evolving digital world where we didn’t have to accept what we were told. Over the course of a few years, we discovered we had our own voices, choices and perhaps even power to influence others too.

As the Communicators rose from among us, we joined them in their journey and became their followers, their fans and co-creators. For a while we were on this wonderful voyage together, Communicators and followers. We formed new communities and we shared our lives more freely than we ever had before. We looked up to our new leaders with great admiration. They were like us and we loved them.

We had a brief Golden Age when we were finding our individual voices. Facebook brought us closer together, Twitter brought the world to us with such immediacy we were astounded at first. More services and tools followed and, today, we have so many ways to share, we are forced to choose based on where our communities are strongest. Once we thirsted for creativity, today we are inundated with it and we use terms like “overloaded” because we haven’t developed effective tools to filter our consumption. Still, its a good time for self-expression and there is so much of it.

The Communicators embraced these new tools for the brands they serve and they used them to capture our attention, share wonderful stories that entice us and weave new fabric to clothe those old brands the Pushers told us about. The Communicators learned more effective techniques as time passed and as they rose to greater heights and found that the brands they served worshipped them and their mystical magick (we knew it was nothing of the sort but then we still believed we travelled with our new prophets). Slowly, almost imperceptibly to most, the Communicators began to believe the praise heaped on them by the brands that also paid them richly. The Communicators began to believe they were the embodiment of the new Social Message and rather than being its interpreters, they started shaping it to suit their vision of this new era. They created new mantras and new laws.

Perhaps the rarified air and great heights led them to forget their earthly origins with us. Perhaps they simply saw themselves as the Pushers’ rightful heirs. Either way, our Communicators changed. They demanded more attention, more praise and they did it in subtle ways. They hosted grand parties and dinners and treated us as beloved followers, graced us with their attention and public praise as if that would somehow sustain us or even elevate us. Some of us became officials in their courts and rose above the rest of us, enjoying success for as long as they were in favour.

Then the Message changed. Our conversations became distorted. We only heard stories of joy, success, praise and favour. We didn’t heard stories about tragedy, disappointment and failure (well, except where failure was heralded as the seed of success). We noticed that officials in their courts disappeared and were replaced and heard quiet rumours about followers who fell into disfavour, were cast out and exiled. Nothing confirmed and yet the rumours persisted.

As the Communicators rose to even greater heights it was as if the Sun shone even brighter on us all and it was tempting to believe times were never this prosperous but this new light didn’t shine everywhere anymore. With this great light came more shadow. The Message was shaped even more and something unfamiliar crept into it: intolerance. Once again, we are told how we feel about brands, their products and services. The Message is no longer a shared construct, the Communicators shape it for us. For the most part we like it and, if we don’t, well, does that matter?

Writing about the ANC's perspective on power

More equal than others

The ANC’s response to the Public Protector’s report on the Nkandla controversy highlights its twisted perspective on its position as ruling party. I had to express my outrage and did it on Medium in an article titled “More equal than others“. Here is how it begins:

If you have paid much attention to the ANC’s responses to controversies it has been embroiled in (usually due to its leader and current South African President, Jacob Zuma), it should be pretty clear to you that, with the ruling party’s reaction to the Public Protector’s report on the president’s Nkandla compound development, the ANC has left our reality and its claim to power seems to be based on a modern version of the ancient Divine Right of Kings.