49% of Americans think that ordinary tomatoes do not have genes, but genetically modified tomatoes do…
Okay that was back in 2008. Here’s some more [Infographic source: Less Wrong].
Do you think that scientific literacy has improved since then? I only managed to dig up some statistics as recent as 2010. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone with more recent figures, but it shows that things don’t get any better – only a 2% improvement for the question about tomatoe genes. [Table source: Discover, The Loom]
I have probably unfairly singled out the USA, but the above table reveals that the levels of scientific literacy are not that much better in other parts of the world. I sincerely hope that more recent statistics show a drastic improvement, but somehow I doubt it. And that’s worrying for the future of this planet.
I really meant to title this post “A women who should neither be seen nor heard.” But that would have been truly awful…
Let it be known that I would be proud to be called a feminist. I strongly support gender equality and care about gender issues. I truly feel for women who invariably have to work twice as hard, if not harder, to earn the respect that men get for doing little or nothing. It’s a shitty, lopsided world – where women have to prove themselves daily.
And it shouldn’t have to be like that.
But when a woman has been entrusted with a position of power, a position of national importance, and then proceeds to make light work of totally fucking things up, then I have to speak up yet again – in the interests of those directly affected and for good woman everywhere who make a success of their position against major odds. Such a woman is Angie Motshekga, the South African Minister for Basic Education.
Not only has Angie set education back many years in South Africa, she continues to blunder ahead with an arrogance that will put many men to shame. No doubt Angie has ample talents, but furthering the interests of education in post-apartheid South Africa, is most certainly not one of them. She seems to have the knack for stumbling from one crisis to another, the latest being her Ministry’s failure to ensure that more than 64 500 teaching positions are filled in one Province alone.
This act alone while being extremely detrimental to the educational needs of South Africa’s children, should be declared as criminal. How her gross incompetence is allowed to continue in a country having what we are assured is a democracy, is beyond comprehension.
Angie Motshekga also serves as the leader of the ANC Women’s League, an organization whose relevance in a modern society is rather dubious, when for most intents and purposes, they seem to serve only as the cheering section for the glut of incompetent men in the ANC government. A recent report in the Sunday Independent suggests that this wing of the ANC, much like the ANC Youth League, is in some disarray. Another report in the Daily Maverick suggests that the ANC Women’s League under Angie are “slavishly loyal to the ANC at the expense of women’s rights.”
Angie’s recent call for action against patriarchy was rather hollow considering her die-hard support for President Jacob Zuma, who’s undoubtedly an icon of this reprehensible social malaise in South Africa. The recent furore over the Spear painting highlighted this fact most convincingly.
In short, Angie is a pathetic example to good women everywhere. One hopes that she is removed from the spotlight before she does more damage to both our education system and the plight of women.
After typing the title, I realised it sounds strange; The Seeker by The Who? I’ll explain…
I’ve just been informed that my father is in hospital on a ventilator system; and the prognosis does not look too good. It’s not unexpected, as he’s been on dialysis for many years and his condition has slowly deteriorated. The only surprise is that he has clung on for so long, through some really dire episodes. That tenacity is a testament to the tough life he’s had to deal with, selflessly rearing his siblings and children after the early death of his own parents, through the hard years of Apartheid.
As I sit here, 600 kilometers away, feeling totally helpless, all I can do is to reflect on his life. The fact that I’m able to write a blog, is largely due to my father’s perseverance in making sure that I received a good education; at some cost to his own well-being probably. For that, I’ll be eternally grateful; I’ll never be able to repay the debt, not that he has ever asked for any such consideration. I still sometimes ponder being a disappointment to him for deciding not to marry and produce the obligatory grandchildren, but he has never forced the issue; unlike my mother who has been quite vocal about her expectations.
To stimulate my thoughts about the realities of life and death, I stumbled across this song by The Who in my collection which I quite enjoyed in the way it was used at the beginning of the film, Religulous by Bill Maher. It’s been one of my all-time favorites, and I think the lyrics are amazingly philosophical; perfect for introspection.
I hope you’ll join me in introspection:
I’ve looked under chairs
I’ve looked under tables
I’ve tried to find the key
To fifty million fables
They call me The Seeker
I’ve been searching low and high
I won’t get to get what I’m after
Till the day I die
I asked Bobby Dylan
I asked The Beatles
I asked Timothy Leary
But he couldn’t help me either
People tend to hate me
‘Cause I never smile
As I ransack their homes
They want to shake my hand
Focusing on nowhere
I’m a seeker
I’m a really desperate man
I won’t get to get what I’m after
Till the day I die
I learned how to raise my voice in anger
Yeah, but look at my face, ain’t this a smile?
I’m happy when life’s good
And when it’s bad I cry
I’ve got values but I don’t know how or why
I’m looking for me
You’re looking for you
We’re looking in at each other
And we don’t know what to do
I believe that the South African government believes that the people believe that the hateful system of Apartheid was replaced with democracy.
Off course, a people who had never known democracy, were bound to accept whatever replaced white minority rule, as good; and even accept that it could be called democracy, given that they were largely denied the education to understand its nuances in the first instance. However, with education apparently being more freely available under this new political dispensation, it’s evident that the masses still have no clue whether they have democracy, or whether it is still being denied to them.
I started thinking about all of this when I read an article titled Which dog is winning? by a young South African women, Vuvu Vena. Vuvu declares that she was spared being born under the system of Apartheid, but has only now started questioning what kind of political system she was lucky enough to be born into. Vuvu may be one of only a handful who is trying to come to terms with what is really going on in the country she has been lead to believe is democratic and free – the vast majority of South Africans however still live in ignorance.
I’m writing this essay in the hope that it will help Vuvu understand what the boastful politician she questioned, is denying her. Traditionally democracy is referred to as being off the people, for the people, by the people. But is this the case in South Africa? Certainly South Africa’s political system is off the people, but can it also be described as being for the people and by the people?
The so-called democracy in its current form in South Africa, is all about majority rule. And I’m afraid that’s all it’s ever going to be about. The ANC government’s paranoia over the previous Apartheid system has seen to it that this new system will be all about majority rule; and little else. They have managed to convince the overwhelming Black majority population that majority rule must be the essence of the new non-racial (?) dispensation; fuck democracy.
As long as an ignorant majority can be coerced through the fear of a return to minority rule, to keep the majority race in power, South Africa will never have a free or fair system of government. It gets worse; the majority do not even benefit more under this skewed system, as should be normal, but their enforced state of ignorance ensures that the fat-cat politicians who created this disturbing situation, will forever be in power, to do as they please with resources that rightfully belong to the people.
True representative democracy will not work in South Africa, until the people become educated enough to understand what it really means. The truth is that the vast majority of voting South Africans are politically naive, and vote like guided sheep, rather than with intelligence and consideration. The only hope is to either educate enough people about representative democracy, or wait for the situation to normalise when the traditionally ignorant are removed from the process through natural attrition. The latter is going to take a long time, which means that even those who think they so-called “born-frees”, will never experience true democracy in their lifetimes. Quite sad really…
South Africans are all too familiar with our very own wretched schooling system which is the direct result of government ineptitude. However, according to Sir Ken Robinson (don’t worry if the name does not sound familiar – what he has to say is more important), schools all over the world may be failing our kids, perhaps not as badly as South African schools at the moment, but bad enough nonetheless.
Ken introduced the idea of creativity-killing schools way back in February 2006 at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in Monterey, California. Instead of trying to retell you about it, why don’t you watch his often funny, yet very thought-provoking Talk for yourself? I promise it will be approximately 19½ minutes of your time well spent:
At the TED conference in February this year, Ken Robertson followed up the theme he introduced in 2006, with another awe-inspiring Talk, exhorting us bring on the revolution in education. I hope you’ll find this just as enjoyable, funny and off course thought-provoking, as his previous effort: