On a return to personal writing

On a return to personal writing

It’s been some time since I made a return to personal writing; my last article on my personal site of yore was posted approximately two years ago.

In that space of time, I feels as if I have grown greatly as a writer – the anathema of what I’d expect having been producing news on a daily basis at the expense of reflexive writing. A return to personal writing feels almost mythical.

In that period of time, I’ve further been occupied with one particular form I’m least enthusiastic about; academic writing. 4 years of study in the media globally – and locally, in South Africa – somehow gives the simultaneous impression of sharpening and dulling your senses as a student.

On one hand, you become acutely aware of any hypocrisy you’re about to write, and on the other, understanding and working with that hypocrisy becomes a kind of truth.

I’m happy to say that, as a writer, I’m happy with the current state of my vernacular and tone. I feel that my work on Bandwidth Blog has developed a nice formula that’s honest as well as edgy, and my personal goal this year is to refine that into as transparent a style as possible. While I don’t really agree with the Flesch reading test or its outcomes for language, there is something to be said for what Oscar Wilde famously laid out in his 10 ironic commandments.

So, I’ve made a return once again to my own personal – but certainly not private – space on the web. As I’ve gone forward to announce so many times in the past, byansmith.press is now my new online home.

“On one hand, you become acutely aware of any hypocrisy you’re about to write, and on the other, understanding and working with that hypocrisy becomes a kind of truth.” 

Here, I hope to keep a small oasis where I can cultivate the digital projects that mean something to me, and continue to engage with them reflexively. Of the posts that remain here, all of them have been ported from my previous web presences and mean something to me.

For instance, my first real-time news article, Gay Rights group stages Kiss-In in Cape Town City Centre, is a strong reminder that we all start somewhere. I hope to keep it here as a small part of a digital legacy which, perhaps, one day I’ll be able to look back on fondly.

There’s still much I wish to post here in time, or when current political conditions have passed; not least of which is a controversial/political video project I produced last year.

My goal is to further begin providing weekly updates here; less on the state of my general life – you can follow me on Twitter (@bryansmithsa) for bite size digest of those – but more on the state of tech, the world, and my thoughts in general.

To surmise a return to personal writing? It’s good to be home.

PS: the cover image of this post is Russian artist Anatoly Vyatkin’s QWERTY keyboard monument. Rather poignant. 


Vrygrond taxi violence

Violence in Vrygrond: Taxi violence erupts, roads closed

Early morning on Tuesday the 16th of September saw a series of armed protests occur on Vrygrond Avenue, reaching into Prince George Drive and Oudevlei road, in Muizenberg, Cape Town.

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Demonstrators, toyi-toying in the Vrygrond Ave. and Prince George intersection, pelted police and the vehicles of residents with stones, lit rubber tyre barricades, and fired indiscriminate live rounds.

The demonstrations come in the wake of the City of Cape Town’s allocation of 10 Taxi permits to the area, when community leaders have been seeking to raise the limit for months. This, coinciding with the Metro Police’s impounding of several unlicensed and unroadworthy taxis in the area, sparked outrage.

The events where part of a wider range of violent taxi-related incidents, which previously has seen three people killed due to gunfire. The residents of Marina da Gama, a wealthy suburb which lies adjacent to the settlement, have lobbied the City for months in order to establish a traffic light intersection to regulate the flow of traffic in the area.

Those demonstrating offered the City three weeks to offer an increased number of taxi permits to the area, and have threatened to make “(the district) ungovernable” if their demands are not met.

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millenial

Column: Don't Call Me A Millennial

Right, let’s talk straight. I’m the victim, accused, and guilty here – I’m a Millennial.

Hold on, let me tweet that.

Okay, back to business. You guys have your facts all wrong – I was born pre-2000. Don’t associate my skin with any of this new-age interconnectedness pseudo-liberal destiny’s child crap. I’m not “Millennial”. I’m old, god dammit. I was born an entire century ago – don’t throw me in the Millennial group. Just because I’ve got an iPhone in my pocket and I like sharing vintage pictures of my breakfast on Instagram and I have enough social media accounts to sink a battleship, doesn’t mean you can stick me in a submarine and scuttle me off to the ocean floor.

I grew up running around outside with a twig for a medieval sword and a catty for shooting spam. I actually have some degree of a tan and I can walk a quarter mile without navigating through my cell phone screen. Seriously, how do you guys manage that?

I also hate all your music. Let’s be honest. Mumford & Sons? I was so elated when I heard they’d put their banjoes down. Justin Bieber can enjoy his ‘retirement’ too. Music went down the pipes long before I was born, so don’t give me that look.  You generation X’ers were all banging your brains out to nu-metal anyway.

Also, don’t give me the stick for sinking Facebook like a ton of lead. It was great until all the old folk started joining and sharing hundreds of thousands of recipes and political commentaries. Really. I just want to see  a mixture of teenage girls, coconut vodka and questionable morals on my news feed, right? The thing was flawed from the beginning, anyway. You only leave your laundry on the line for so long, unless you live in a trailer park.

You know what really grates my cheese? Don’t tell me I think life is short. It’s not. It’s the longest thing I’ll ever do. Don’t you think that if I really thought life was short, then I’d be streaking down the neighbourhood cul-de-sac with a guitar in hand? Honestly. I’m quite content in this little societal bubble that’s been made for me. I want to learn, work, raise kids and then finish off peacefully. Forget all that stuff I told you about studying with Bhuddist Monks and leading the anti-Capitalist rebellion. I’m a peaceful revolutionary at heart. I’ll occupy Wall Street until it’s time to go Instagram my coffee at Starbucks.

I actually think that you – yes, you there in the corporate Generation X suits and ties – are the real Millennials. I mean, the Wikipedia entry to “stealing someone’s thunder” should have a display picture of you all sharing your Facebook photo of your newborn.

Look, there’s some truth here. You guys got most of the fun with vinyl records – I have to buy mine at a vintage “premium!”. You even grew up with pretty good tunes on the radio, too. You all got smartphones before we did. You even got the opportunity to have a fairly cohesive opinion on things like Vietnam and the Cold War. Look at what I’m dealing with – we can’t even make our minds up about how to word a Twitter post. So, really, don’t blame me for using the gifts you gave me. I’m still dealing with being called an “Echo-Boomer”, which in essence sounds like an after-quake. See? We don’t even get to make the Earth move.

You all love to complain that we don’t go outside and that we sit at a computer all day, but hold on, let’s evaluate. I essentially had a childhood to do that. Now I’m a victim of the cyber prison, just like you all – well, except for Granny Doris. She missed that boat.

Now, you love to complain about us as we take to the Twitterverse and rant about Miley’s Virus and her performance with Robin (is quite) Thicke, but you’re forgetting that was all planned by men in a boardroom of your generation. Cause and effect. Give us a cause, and we’ll pour our hearts into the Internet lamenting the death of innocence. (Not me, I saw that coming. You can only have two identities for so long before you hit the Wacko stage. I’m looking at you, Hannah Montana.)

One last thing – you can keep your conservative media. I don’t want to hear Bill O’Reilly spill his guts over something he doesn’t want America to know or think about. I also don’t want to be considered a “Millennial” with delusions of grandeur and a massive God complex. You can keep that kind of talk for Mr Rupert Murdoch.

Now, if you don’t mind, it’s been three hours since my last selfie.

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Just in case you didn’t click, this is a satirical piece, from my column Don’t Look At Me In That Tone Of Voice.

Cover image: http://alinthenews.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/generation-y.jpg


The Problem with Masculinity

masculinity, mass noun –  possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men.

I must argue that the above is one of the most useless dictionary definitions of all time.

There’s an ongoing struggle in society: it’s subconscious, and pervades nearly all of our interactions between both sexes, and all ethnicities and genders. It has been birthed partly from contemporary history, the technological revolution, and, additionally, the sexual revolution. It affects the perceptions of men and women in society, and furthermore affects not only their self-value, but their value of other people. It’s lead to mass uprisings of feminists, who traditionally fight for the equality and representation of women in society and other related spheres. It has lead to partial change, and great discrepancy.

The problem I’m outlining is not one centrally of sexuality nor social status; it extends far further than those two  concepts.  The issue we deal with in our time is not the fault of femininity – it’s the fault of masculinity, it’s inability to change, and, centrally, the difficulty of defining what the term masculinity actually represents.

Recent developments in humankind’s brief existence has more or less rendered men redundant. Biologically, we no longer truly need to fulfil a physical purpose as strong, athletic defenders or hunters beyond reproductive purposes.  Sociologically, we’re on equal par (in ideal nations) with women – we’re both capable of performing the same tasks or work.

Humankind, essentially, has evolved past – or is evolving past – the use for what we presently define as a masculine presence.

As a result of this, there’s huge friction between an up and coming generation of men who’ve grown without clear role models to facilitate their function in this new society. Some adopt (consciously or not) the attitude of an “alpha” male – the persona of expressing dominance over their fellow men and, especially, women, as argued by feminists the world over. Feminists have even come to define masculinity thus as the sexuality of “exerting dominance over and consuming female sexuality.” Feminists traditionally don’t have too many close friends in popular culture, but let’s give them a trophy here – they do have a point which describes at least more than half of traditional “masculine” society.

Traditionally, the counter persona to this, the “Nice Guys” or “beta males” as they are derided, haven’t been met with nearly as much success. “Alpha” males, traditionally exerting at least the basic confidence, physique or social power that’s associated with attracting feminine interest, have had a leg up. This is partly due, if you consider, to how human evolution in society has taken place; women have at least traditionally been forced into a role where they are subservient to men, and have come to rely on a masculine presence for both reproduction and protection. Hence, a man who can exert confidence, physical power, or deft control over social spheres becomes an attractive interest to what is perceived as feminine vulnerability.

There have been and are, of course, outliers to this. However, in traditional Western capitalist society, this is at least a general disposition.

Nice Guys, hence seeking to counter ‘alpha’ male behaviour, act as kind, gentle, intelligent, or are well-mannered. While men of this calibre are traditionally valued, they aren’t met with as much success as their ‘alpha’ counterparts due to contravening their expected evolutionary purpose. Often, “Nice Guys” adopt this persona due to feelings of inferiority, which is often furthered by a lack of success in society, culture, or with feminine interest. This becomes a vicious cycle in which both groups inherently are flawed conceptions of masculinity which, to greater or lesser degrees, serve no real purpose in an evolutionary and progressive society. One group is a regurgitation of caveman mentality, while the other is a social persona produced from the ashes of a changing structure in society.

Hence, these broad and vague definitions of masculinity are often what young men either fall into, or attempt to emulate. With no clear guidance from either a lack of a masculine presence, or a male role model who cannot hope to prescribe guidance to ensure success in a world that has changed unrecognisably from his adolescence, young men are often conflicted as to a clear path forward in clarifying and establishing their own identities and personae. This, in society today, has created what we’ll term as the problem with masculinity.

While the full solution to the issues created by this quandary are impossible to narrow down while Western society undergoes drastic social, technological, and cultural change, there is at least a path forward.

What is evidently needed, and will no doubt develop with its own time, is what we could define rudimentarily as technically ‘post-masculinism’ – a radical new definition of what it means to be male in a progressive, equal, and successful society. The successful synthesis of man’s past role in human progression, and what is needed of men in the future, would ultimately cultivate societies and cultures for thousands of years to come. The society of the future does not require cave-man ‘alpha’ brutality nor dominance, nor does it require the vulnerability of ‘beta’ nice guy mentality, forged from a feeling of social or romantic discontent.

Ideally, then, a new definition of masculinity would require men who are able to invest confidence of themselves – not of conscious decision, but of unconscious origin. Men who are assured, confident, respectful to their feminine equals and who practice their beliefs and morals would ultimately counter the failures experienced by what could possibly be the final generations of traditional masculine society. It as clear that in as much breadth as the whole of humanity moves into a scientific age directed by progress and vision, that men must adopt those values as pillars of belief to once again act in a role that co-designs a mutual human future.

Men, hence, to overcome the problem with masculinity, must be prepared, regardless of their sexuality, culture, ethnicity or citizenship, to once again peaceably become the co-designers of a changing society, rather than it’s victims.

 


the bugger all degree

The 'Bugger All' Degree

When I first arrived at the University of Cape Town as a fresher in the summer of 2012, I don’t believe I had the faintest idea of the stigma surrounding a general Bachelor of Arts degree.

A BA – at least to my uninformed opinion, represented a strong field of study, which both demanded generous input and dedication, and returned wisdom, knowledge, and an awareness of one’s own surroundings and society. Since then, my beliefs have changed little.

However, I have found that other students’ accommodation of these sentiments have been met with tepid response at best.

My outside perception of the Faculty of Humanities would most likely conjure the stereotypical image of mountain-gazing culture shamans – my inward perception as a humanities student knows otherwise.

Bachelor of Arts students are not the spaced-out underachievers of legend; rather, it’s a realm inhibited by forward thinkers, visionaries, and future leaders.

I myself find the prospect of studying engineering or accounting dull, and uninviting; and before I’m volleyed with assorted power-tools and calculators, allow me to elaborate why: the issues of our times are social problems.

Were you to quickly glance at any news media, local or international, I’d place a fair wager that current headlines would predictably be centred on the unrest – in whatever form – that permeates societies across the globe.

BA students deconstruct the iron curtain of civilization, be it through the development of thought in philosophy, examination of the trends of history, or the illumination of humankind through anthropology.

While the societies of the globe undoubtedly requires the talents of the future doctors, accountants and engineers who now study and graduate alongside us, humankind as a whole desperately needs the mustered thoughts, dreams and empowerment provided by the students of the Arts.

If the old saying that culture creates progress is true – the development of culture through studies and careful cultivation should be a greater goal.

Bachelor of Arts students fight different battles to those in other faculties or degree plans; our arena is a world stage, our weapons are our thoughts, and we aim to live in and shape our world.

A BA degree is undervalued; it’s students’ struggles unappreciated. However, the knowledge and wisdom gained in a simple three-year study out-rivals a lifetime of self-driven introspection.

Our world has entered the era in which the necessity of thought-driven action is paramount; and around me, in lecture theatres, tutorials, seminars or lunch hour, I never fail to be astounded by the quality and quantity of potential social icons who stride across UCT’s Jameson Plaza.