Chicken wars, Animal Rights and Black Lives Matter

IF THE idea of a sudden influx of cheap chicken wings from the USA wasn’t enough to disturb South Africans, who up until now hadn’t given much thought to how our local chickens fare, then I guess the threat of arsenic in imported US chicken marks a turning point in environmentalism. The FDA admitted this week that 70% of U.S. Chickens contain cancer-causing arsenic.

The privileged amongst us have always been weary of what we eat, but seeing social media taking up the mantra of free range, grain-fed, “organic Chicken” in the aftermath of the announcement, it occurred to me that many of those posting about this issue, are amongst South Africa’s emerging black empowered middle-class, eager to link colonialism and the politics of food.

It was thus with some bemusement that I also witnessed the reactionary attacks on social media this week by Adam Haupt and Gillian Schutte et al, who seem to be of the opinion that an “Animal Lives Matter” poster put up at UCT was nothing less than a hidden agenda for white supremacists. (see my earlier criticism of this agenda-setting here)

“Keep your animal rights out of black rights” screamed Schutte.

So far as Haupt, who appears to be a “Professor at the Centre for Film and Media Studies“, was concerned, the innocuous phrase “Animal Rights Matter” was assuredly a ‘racist intertextual reference’, one that “denigrates black lives and presents the human and animal rights as mutually exclusive.”

Haupt went on to retort “in short, the poster is divisive in this context and provides a binary response to black students and staff’s attempts to address bigotry.”

I have no doubt that he would also say the exact same thing of a “Queer rights Matter” poster, or a “Women’s Rights Matter” pamphlet.

Both readings would be an unnecessary distortion and removal of context, and historically incorrect. For all the academic blather, (surely a case of cookie-cutter theory and hammer-head ideology), the criticism is undoubtedly misplaced and unfounded.

Environmentalism like queerdom, has a long history of co-existance with the struggle against racism and apartheid in this country. In ‘Do You have to be White to be Green’, an article written by Albie Sachs and published by Kagenna Press back in the 90s, Sachs answered the same question with an emphatic No.

As one of the persons responsible for linking apartheid and the environment, and having unleashed considerable criticism, of what was then, a movement dominated by persons classified as white, I can only concur with Sachs, and suggest that the movement has now come full circle. The renaming of the Wildlife Society of South Africa is a case in point, as is the inclusion of environmental rights in our Constitution.

Humans are an integral part of the environment, and thus issues such as water, housing, sanitation, exist alongside the Save the Rhino campaign.

As an aside, it wasn’t simply these linkages between apartheid and the environment that were important, (so far as the struggle against apartheid was concerned), it was also the linkages between apartheid and the animals in the environment.

Wildlife battling the apartheid regime was a new front in the struggle, as my articles published in the anti-apartheid weekly, South, demonstrate, and thus exposing General Magnus Malan’s trophy hunting expeditions attest — directing readers to pictures and images of ‘Bokkie and the War’, painted in the public’s mind, images one could never forget.

The bloody, ripped, lifeless, gemsbok, antelope, kudu and Mother Nature herself, killed in the name of the Botha, Malan and Vlok war machine made for effective propaganda. If the racist bigots couldn’t make an emotional connection with similar images emanating from the townships on a daily basis — in which human beings had been reduced to the status of mere objects — then exposing the continuum of pain that included wildlife, and the basis for our existence on Planet Earth, was surely a resounding success.

This is the kind of thing that often gets one thrown out of shareholder meetings — the sight of bloodied fur and animal rights demonstrators –all part of the emergence of the first phase of green consciousness, so crucial to any debate on patriarchy and capitalism, and which lead to the inclusion of Post-Brundland values in our constitution, alongside “ecological sustainable development” and the “right to adequate housing”

BitVote: Have a say in decisions that affect us all

DO YOU remember when the internet still spread hope? After its invention in the‘80s, we had access to a mass of information, sites such as Napster allowed us to share so-called “private property” easily and, most importantly, we could publish what we had to say ourselves – and people actually listened. It was participatory in nature, without much visible regulation from above. Nowadays, with net neutrality being at risk, mass surveillance and the threat of clamping down on copyright infringements as an excuse for censorship, the web often induces more fear than encouragement.

Narcolepsy sufferer Aaron Bale – mentored by “the internet’s own boy”, Aaron Swartz, and inspired by the success of the SOPA blackout in 2012, when 20 million people effectively stopped an anti-piracy bill – has come up with an idea to return some power to internet users: BitVote. He hopes his project will let us have some say again, without being completely overrun by the powers-that-be.

What is BitVote?

As a decentralised app operating on a BitCoin-like blockchain technology with a KeyValuePair store of data strings everyone can access, BitVote will add value to ideas without a human authority having to oversee the process. The coding will be completely transparent, so everyone can improve, build and analyse the tool as they wish. In the interest of, “I don’t agree with your opinion but I’ll fight for your right to speak it,” it’ll be completely neutral and compatible with all current systems as well as third-party add-ons.

How do I vote?

Votes will be measured in units we can all relate to: minutes, hours and days of our life. You’ll be able to choose a link (or create your own) to something you feel strongly about – say it’s the fight against Monsanto’s food monopoly. After pasting it into BitVote, you can dedicate an appropriate amount of token time to it. If you have 24 vote hours, you could use all 24 hours towards Stop Monsanto. But you could also, if you don’t care about the GMO giants as much, only use four hours (or one, two, five etc.) and save the rest for a different cause. Your vote will be recorded and your available hours will drop accordingly. The time-units are easy for everyone to grasp, yet they’ll provide multiple factors for analysis. What, for instance, is more important – many people spending small vote units on a cause or a few people spending large vote units on a cause?

Bale and BitVote coder Jasper den Ouden haven’t agreed whether all voters will accumulate vote hours from the day BitVote launches or from the day you were born, but the consensus is that the assigning of “vote currency” needs to be equal for all. Importantly, although vote hours will increase every 60 minutes of your life, they’ll gain value through scarcity. This means that those who don’t use the internet so often – the elderly, people living in rural areas or just generally less tech-savvy people – will actually have a stronger impact when things get heavy. Say something drastic happens and a president decides to go to war. The above-mentioned demographic might be motivated to vote and have more hours to spend than enthusiastic internet users who vote everyday.

Slacktivism

You might be thinking, how is this different to slacktivism? It’s just a bunch of symbolic hours after all; spent in a virtual system, via a click from your armchair. Bale realises that the vote hours won’t do anything as such. But what they will do, is show what people care about. If you’re fighting for a cause, you might feel more confident addressing it in the real world if you know 80% of BitVoters feel the same way as you. Ultimately – although BitVote can be used for a vast variety of reasons, from market research to activism – the system’s strength is perhaps that it could offer evidence of betrayal. If the Film and Publications Board South Africa says pre-publication censorship on the internet is what the majority wants, citizens could take to BitVote to prove the opposite. Whether a bunch of votes will actually stop officials from executing their plans is hard to imagine, yet – if the system really is widely used by technophiles and technophobes alike – it might be more powerful than a Twitter storm or liking causes on Facebook.

What about mob-votes?

A concern is that a mob of people, who might be very uneducated on the subject they’re voting on, could get together to cast a potentially dangerous vote. Imagine this was, “kill all homosexuals”. Bale tries to explain this problem with what he calls “The Zombie Example”. “If there’s a zombie apocalypse on the rise and 99.9% want to legalise cannibalism, authorities have the option not to act on this, and the population will thank them later. You can use common sense.” Moreover, it’s an alarm bell. If a large number of voters plan to kill homosexuals, he would try to physically intervene. He believes it probably won’t come to tyranny-of-the-majority votes though because of the way people interact online. “Not in close physical proximity, and anonymously. There’s trolling, but there’s not a lot of abuse of authority. The internet doesn’t kill people.”

Also, he explains, if a tyrant boss in an oppressive regime gets a 1000 of his employees to vote at gunpoint, these workers can cast a counter-vote anonymously to get “the asshole fired”. He adds that there are a lot of scams around and BitVote isn’t immune to them – but often people have ways to figure them out. An instant “vote bomb”, in this case a 1000 people voting for a dodgy cause at once, might spur some scepticism.

Location-aware votes

Although users will be completely anonymous by default, a positive aspect is perhaps that you’ll have the option to disclose your geographical location. Imagine the City of Cape Town decides to evict a group of people from their shacks, again claiming to have the interest of the people at heart. The majority, who are not being evicted from their homes, might vote for the eviction of the shack-dwellers because they don’t understand their conditions – thus providing the City with a plausible back-up to their statement. The affected community could, however, start a location-aware vote to show that everyone who lives in the area does not approve of the eviction.  In other words, the people at the river should have more authority to decide whether it’s polluted or not. Bale also points out that, because anyone can build an add-on tool, it’s easy to create filters. This might be useful if BitVote gets flooded with porn.

One-per-ID

As well-intentioned as BitVote may sound, if it wants be legitimate and effective, there can only be one user per real-world identity, which is difficult to prove without compromising anonymity. The geek word for this is Sybil security – a tricky problem many organisations are currently trying to solve. While none of them are perfect, the BitVote team members have some ideas. Options could involve “ID pools”, i.e. having users play a game simultaneously, or reputation systems. A lot of methods have loop holes and would be extremely costly though. According to Bale, so-called Sybil attacks, also called “sock puppeting”, are often of a “social nature”, meaning they don’t necessarily involve a lot of technical know-how. Therefore, Bale welcomes everyone to help solve this problem. If you’re a social orientated professional, such as a sociologist, political student, social-engineer hacker, activist, doctor, or just someone with a good idea, please contact him at arkbg1@gmail.com.

At this stage it’s unclear when BitVote will launch officially – funding still needs to be secured and Sybil security solved – but the team is working on getting a small scale system up and running soon. This will function as an invitation-only experiment for people whose identity has been verified in the real world.

Until then, we might not be sure of the project’s practical implications. But one thing Bale said might be valuable to keep in mind: “With BitVote the concept of authority is constantly changing. The ideas themselves will gain authority, not people.”

What do you think? Are you sceptical? How would you use BitVote?  

Please post your ideas, critiques and praise in the comment section – it’s a project everyone is encouraged to participate in. 

Text: Christine Hogg

 

Smile FM, Cape Town’s latest radio station

Today Smile 90.4fm  – Cape Town’s new FM radio station –  started broadcasting.

Backed by SA’s pre-eminent film producer Anant Singh, Smile 90.4fm won the first FM licence to be awarded by the regulator, Icasa, for Cape Town in 14 years.

Smile 90.4fm – which held its official launch in Cape Town last week –  will be unique in that it will be completely bilingual – going out in 50% Afrikaans and English and with a mix of music and talk. Half of the music will be local.

It has a 10-year licence according to MD Tony Mallam

Mallam, who has worked for the SABC and was a shareholder in and financial director of Kfm – said: “My first licence with Kfm was for six years and when we got the paper work for this one, it was for 10 years. We checked with Icasa and they felt it was a mission to renew every six years.”

In its application, the station’s funding target was R36-million.

FROM: Journalism.co.za

Cape Town World Music Festival Boycott

The Cape Town World Music Festival (CWM Festival) has begun in the face of a call to boycott the festival. The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) has released a statement saying “We have recently learned that the Cape Town World Music Festival  has crossed and violated the international-boycott-of-Israel-picket-line …Performing on a platform sponsored by Apartheid South Africa, or with a band from Apartheid South Africa, during the 1980s was to be on the wrong side of history. Today, performing on a platform sponsored by Israel, or with a band from Israel, is choosing to be on the wrong side of history. Be on the right side of history, don’t entertain Apartheid, and don’t collaborate with an Occupation regime. ” You can read the full statement on the website.

Aside from the strange assumption that Apartheid no longer exists in South Africa post-Marikana, and following the failure of the government to adopt recommendations of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the unwillingness of the ruling party to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity, one has to question the credibility of the claim that what is occurring in Israel is Apartheid and that merely replicating the anti-Apartheid struggle along with sanctions and boycotts is the correct course of action. (please see my posting on the Apartheid Analogy also Good Jew, Bad Jew and Hadrian’s Flotilla – Zionism and a Free Palestine under scrutiny.)

As a member of ‘Artists against Apartheid’ during the 1980s, I participated in a number of such actions aimed at undermining the power and authority of the Apartheid state. We were guided by the principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter, in particular the promise that the “Doors of Learning and Culture would be opened”, and that all people, regardless of the colour of ones skin would be able to participate in a democratic country. I thus fought against racial segregation in a freedom struggle whose aims and objectives were the creation of a constitutional state with a Bill of Rights.

The Palestinian struggle has yet to produce a Freedom Charter. It has no such democratic goals, and does not aim to accommodate all people regardless of religious and ethnic identity. The illusion of a “Free Palestine” is exactly that, an illusion. It is a beguiling promise of a world free of the conflict that has raged on for the past 64 years, in which hundreds of thousands of people have been slaughtered in the futile search for a new world order. As much as one wishes the conflict were as simple as the black and white patina of the South African conflict, the truth is rather different. Israel is home to both black and white, Jew and non-Jew, it accommodates Arabs including 1 million Jewish Arabs, it is home to indigenous Jews, as well as Jews from the diaspora. In Israel, 75.4% are Jewish, 16.9% Muslim, 2.1% Christian, and 1.7% Druze, while the remaining 4.0% are not classified by religion.

It is easy to forget the expulsion of Jews from the Arab world after 1948 and the issue of Ethiopian Jews (over a quarter of a million of them) and other Africans living in Israel, many of whom have fled their home countries seeking refuge. Israel exists because of ongoing internecine strife in the Arab world, the inability to provide basic human rights, such as gender equality and freedom of sexual orientation. Although 37 000 people have died in Syria over the past year alone, there is no call from BDS for a boycott of Assad’s government. The Palestinian territories on the other hand, have no specific, stand alone civil rights legislation that protect LGBT people from discrimination or harassment. Same-sex acts are ostensibly legal in the West Bank, precisely because of the occupation.

The current dispensation, set in place after the Cold War took its starting point as the resolution of the conflict which began during World War Two. Resolution 242 upon which the current territorial demands of both Israel and Palestine are now based, specifically outlaws the gaining of territory by acts of war and conquest, and yet the Palestinian Struggle, for all intents and purposes, has merely turned into a battle for the conquest and reconquest of territory — current demands by Hamas are for the return of all land in Israel, including Tel Aviv and Haifa in order to recreate the Ottoman Empire, and more specifically to return Jerusalem to Dar al Islam, the Islamic Empire.

Nevertheless, we are told that if we do not support the Palestinian struggle, we are on the wrong side of history. While South Africa struggles to protect the rights of LGBT people in the face of corrective rape, the promise of religious freedom enshrined in the South African constitution has turned into nothing more than an unaffordible and inaccessible dream. One has only to look at the Robbie Jansen Scandal  (see here and here) and my 7 year labour discrimination case against an apartheid media company which refused to participate in the TRC and which declined to apologise to the victims and survivors of the apartheid system, to realise that South Africa falls well short of the vision encapsulated by the Freedom Charter. The South African struggle is thus far from over.

NOTE: Medialternatives has proposed a compromise solution called Israelstine. I am also on record as being opposed to the separation barrier, and have actively campaigned for equal rights for Palestinians, Arabs and Jews, as well as being against the War in Gaza. I support UN Resolution 242 and do not support the latest round of claims with regard to the return of land held under the Ottomans.

UPDATE: It appears a redacted version of this letter was published by the Cape Argus, as can be seen from a google search:

Cape Argus – Cape Argus – I’m not sure Palestinian stance puts me on the wrong side

 alongside a piece written the same day 

Cape Argus – Palestinians have every right to fight Israelis

 

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However, both articles have since been removed from the Cape Argus online edition in an obvious attempt to suppress the contents of the correspondence.

DeepinScrot-3045

Letter to New York times concerning racism in Cape Town

Dear Ed,

In a Divided City, Many Blacks See Echoes of White Superiority” article published March 22, 2012 refers.

One can certainly answer Polgreens’ question in the affirmative: “Does this nation’s celebrated rainbow end where the mountain meets the sea?” Yes, as the experience with the Robbie Jansen-Jimmy Dludlu controversy has proven, (see below) there are two Cape Town’s — the one a supposed liberal bastion against, shudder, one-party control by black Africans, the other a conservative throwback to the previous whites-only regime, in which petty apartheid, for all intents and purposes, remains.

Cape Town for all its racially charged allure, and struggle with integration may be home to “Goema” a distinctive beat and local style of Jazz akin to the New Orleans association with Dixie, but the predominant sound is the two-step of Afrikaner volk musiek,The subversive sound of the “goema” or hand-drum which bears its name, is synonymous with the annual minstrel or “kaapse klopse” parades but the Goema of the Capes’ many taverns and districts is still largely forbidden.

The Cape has a history of its own, but it also shares folklore with the American South, reaching far back to the emancipation of slavery.  The lateHotep Idris Galeta, a South African Jazz great, placed this first contact of our fellow countrymen with black Americans and black American music, as “the 30th of June in 1889” when “the minstrel troop of Orpheus Myron McAdoo’s “Virginia Jubilee Singers” from Hampton Virginia appeared in concert in Cape Town.”

Much of this interwoven musical tapestry is tragically being lost, as Jazz music becomes just another tourist commodity along with the annual Cape Town Jazz Festival, which is currently being hosted by the City and which is simply another commercial attraction for the middle class, rather than a broad venue for the expression of an eponymous and indigenous, local style of “holy music”.

An incident which occurred shortly after the opposition Democratic Alliance gained control of both the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape in 2006 is illustrative of the “subtle and sometimes hard to pin down racism” which affects one of the world’s premier long-haul destinations.

I am the author of a short piece on Cape Town jazz music legend, the late Robbie Jansen. The interview dismissed as “too controversial” by a Cape Town based apartheid-era media company, Media24, has been the subject of ongoing litigation.

Most recently I was denied leave to appeal by the Labour Appeal Court of South Africa, this despite evidence of bias & corruption on the part of the judge, but am still in the process of raising funds so that I may appeal directly to South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court. I believe the decision to be an infringement of my rights as a journalist and as an individual, in particular my right to pen articles that are inclusive of the nation’s complex racial identity and to not suffer editorial sanctions on the basis of racial profiling of readership.

The article which I consider groundbreaking for its time, and one of the few interviews conducted with the saxophonist before his death, provided space for Jansen to declaim on the 2006 SAMA music awards and more specifically to dialogue with a black Jazz guitarist, one man named Jimmy Dludlu, whom Jansen candidly referred to as the “George Benson of South Africa”.

Although dismissed as nothing more than “music politics” and “not the type of article one would find in a community newspaper” readers my recall South African Jazz musicians being forced to play behind curtains during the apartheid era. The struggle anthem “Manenburg is where it’s happening” on which Jansen appears, was often played in illegal mixed race Jazz venues, which once dotted the city in a subversive undermining of the apartheid regime’s claim to racial and cultural superiority.

The regime’s hatred of Jazz music has a parallel in Nazi race superiority, — as Josef Skvorecky so aptly reminds us, fascism and hatred of Jazz has always coincided: For one, there are all those “hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people.”

It comes as no surprise then that the censorship case also involves anti-Semitic comments made by the management of the People’s Post to the effect that “Jews have no business attending mixed race entertainment venues on the Sabbath,” – which is why, as a Progressive Jew, I sued for unfair discrimination amongst other things.

The same company also cynically referred to the demographics of the Cape Flats, as a “coincidence of homogeneity”. The Cape Flats is a place where people of colour affected by the forced removals which followed the destruction of District 6 — a place so rich in Cape Town’s multicultural Jazz history – were brutally resettled against their will. In other words, the company which it turns out, still refuses to apologise for its part in supporting the apartheid regime, is “merely in the business of making money” and if this means upholding the legacy of the Group Areas Act, which segregated people along colour lines, by playing to a racist demographic, then so be it.

These comments recorded in court documents now appear to have the official blessing of South Africa’s judiciary. Underlings should not question their masters and Jews should be in Shul on Friday night spinning their dreidels instead of listening to Jazz.

When it comes to the laissez faire “sunset” deals made by the previous regime, it is thus moral conservatism, not any one political parties grip on power, for instance the DA now claim to be like the US “democratic party”, which remains with us at the end of the day, and which impacts upon those living in the Cape and elsewhere. The remarks by Cape Town mayor Helen Zille regarding “education refugees” from up North, have thus come at a time when people are feeling exceedingly uncomfortable about the schizophrenia of the provinces as the national debate focuses around new proposals for the return to a unitary state.

I therefore humbly request financial support from your readers for the restitution of justice in an application before the South African Constitutional Court in this matter.

Yours faithfully,

David Robert Lewis

[David Robert Lewis is a writer and activist. His work has appeared in Amandla, Grassroots, South Press, Vrye Weekblad, New Nation, Afrol Online, Design Indaba, Adbusters and Music Industry Online]