May 29, 2009

He Who is Without Sin, To Cast the First Stone (The Brenda Fassie Fallacy)

Posted in Food for Thought at 5:31 pm by sonwafuthi

First:

I want to send my sincere apologies to the Fassie family for any inconvenience this article may cause.  I write this article mindful of the pain and suffering you went through because of your loss, and don’t attempt in any way to be little it.

Second:

People always say we “…don’t (in the African culture), speak ill of the dead.” I concur with that and add that it is because, our culture assumes and expect good from all people, hence there would be no credible ill to speak of in the fist place.  Ours is not a culture of lies, liars, or cover ups. “Asiwafihli amakhuba kulinywa, asigqumi mbona ngamakhasi”.  Every one has a good and bad side in them, and it is the one that predominates over our actions that defines who we are.  And it is what we do whilst alive that echoes through our eternity.

Hence:

The 9th of May this year marked the 5th anniversary of Brenda Fassie’s death. Many articles have been written about her life and death, both in and outside South Africa.  However, it was until the week of the 9th this year, when a certain radio station in our country used the week to commemorate her, which my thinking of (her death) on the matter began.

How high we have always held Brenda Fassie high in this country is remarkable, incredible, one would even be tempted to think that we will soon be a Brenda Fassie street at least in kwaLanga, Cape Town, where she was born.  Of cause, she is one of the best musicians, this country has ever produced, and she gave us one of the best performances on stage this country has ever seen.  Nothing emphasizes that point better than the KORA and the four consecutive SAMA best selling Awards she worn.

When she was hospitalized thousands of South Africans and foreign nationals shared the pain with her family and flocked into the hospital to show support, including former President Nelson Mandela, former President Thabo Mbeki, Winnie Mamndela, to name but a few big names.

Her death was reported across the world, with the BBC calling her “… a very human hero….”  With Leslie Sedibe quoted saying “…Brenda occupied a special place in the minds and hearts of many people around the world. Indeed a hero has fallen.  Death has robbed this country, Africa, and the world one of the greatest talents….”

Through the ‘Blog of Death’, people (particularly across Africa) wrote their messages of condolences to the family and the country at large, clearly implicating that the whole country was in moaning. As if all that, was not enough.  This year, 5 years later, an exhibition entitled “Do you Know Where Brenda Fassie Is,” organized by Nonkululeko Mlangeni, is running from the 9th of May to the 7th of June to entrench and cement the high regard we hold of her.
Allow me to agitate the mud.  Brenda Fassie died from drug abuse, from cocaine she had consciously snorted on the morning of the 26th of the fourth month in 2004, and not some ‘Samaritan mission’.  Her whole life as a celebrity is filled with drugs and covered with controversy, and then more drugs and more controversy.

She had released only one album when she first hit her first line (around 1994).  In 1995, in a hotel room, she woke up next to the corpse of her lesbian lover, Poppie Sihlahla, who had died of drug overdose.  Controversy was in every corner of her life, from bisexual to hitting photographers, and she was in and out of Drug Rehabilitation Clinics about 30 times.

Yet we still hold her high because all the bad things about her are overshadowed by her ‘beautiful’ voice and performances she gave us.  Hence, everything about her is written in a positive light, nicknamed the “…undisputed queen of the vocals…,” “The Madonna of the townships.”  The 30 visits to the rehab are justified by claims that no rehab clinic was competent enough to help her.  That rehab facility failed her. Really?  All these served nothing in the minds of; the fooled, but to market Brenda giving a positive image from her bad deeds.   Ask any marketer “bad publicity is better than no publicity.”  Americans sell their albums by portraying themselves as gangsters; she sold herself as an ‘I don’t care’, ‘free spirited’, do what I want’ drug addict. The first thing about rehabilitation is that; the subject must want and be willing to be rehabilitated, I say she never did.

Are we so short of heroes and heroines that an addict made No 17 on the top 100 Great South Africans list?  Is South Africa so idol less that we harnessed a wrong version of “Robin Hood,” and idolized the worse person in our mist?  A worse case of drug abuse she is.  Went broke, woke to a corpse, 30 visits to rehab, and died of drug abuse.  She is quoted saying she can’t remember a thing about working with Papa Wemba, she was so high.

And in our intoxicated lust we have misplaced our morals and mental capacity to separate right from wrong and followed the astray-road-crossing-sheep, because it did so confidently and looked like it knew what it where it was going.  We got overwhelmed by sympathy and gratitude that we not only misrepresented it, but we also misplaced it.  And in the process of allowing a very bad precedence to be set, we have allowed a threat to worm its way to becoming a norm in the music industry.  Kabelo, Mandoza, MXO, Lebo Mathosa, Mshoza, the list is endless, some came out and are now speaking against drug abuse, some are denying it.

Is she worth all of this, all the fuss?  NO!  To me she is a ‘Marian Jones’ for she stayed high all the time when she was in the studio and on stage.   When the American R. Kelly and Michael Jackson were in court, South African radio stations pledged solidarity with the victims and boycotted their music.  A South African junky musician dies and they hail, praise, promote, and commemorate on her name.
What message are we sending to the youth?  In a country considered the preferred drug destination, in a country so hard hit by drugs that even ARVs are being smoked to get high, in a country with miscellaneous drug options one just can’t keep up, and in a Province (Cape Town / Western Cape) with the youth so severely crippled by drugs it has become a norm for people to get killed by addicts for a cell phone. And you give me an exhibition! Mabrrr mabrrr my foot Mani!  It is an open secret that dagga (at least) consumption amongst young and aspiring musicians is high, and with the Americans putting a spark, why are we adding the fuel?

As far as I am concerned, only her family can celebrate her life, for only they knew her inner being.  What we know is her public being, a drug orientated life style.  A legend, heroine, icon, idol, she was not, a celebrity maybe, but not any of the earlier mentioned.  Death robbed us of great talent, no, drugs robbed us great talent (if there was any without drugs).  She was high on and off the studio.
In this country, we have tons of heroes and heroines, a significant share of legends, and a number of idols and icons, both in and out of the music industry.  Some have used drugs but have now repented and recant from them.  Some have gone even further by dedicating their time to fighting drug abuse in our society.  Brenda never did any of that unfortunately.  Let us then hold high and appreciate those who did.
So instead of live radio commemoration and playing her music in her remembrance, speak against drugs on that day on her behalf.  Instead of giving us an indoctrinating exhibition, host a campaign against drugs kwaLanga, around the province, on her behalf.  If for nothing else, then to salvage her name from the dumps and mud it continues to exist in, on her behalf.

Let not her soul rest in peace, let it roam around and amongst in an effort to set right her wrongs.  Let her memory achieve, from beyond the grave, what her physical being failed to achieve whilst alive.  Then, and only the, shall sizingombe izifuba in pride of her efforts to make the world a better place.

However, who am I to tell a morally lost nation what to do? I am but one guy who is thinking …in Ink.

Written By:  S. M.
Edited by:  N. D

May 20, 2009

Religion Vs. Science

Posted in Food for Thought at 5:11 pm by sonwafuthi

There is a rife and very grave undeclared war between the religious community and the scientific community, and as a spiritual young aspiring scientist I find myself caught up in-between. The war is a result of, amongst others, the conflicting ideas about the origins of humankind, and it dates back to centuries. Namely; the Evolution and Creation theory, from scientific and religious communities.

It is believed widely across religious community that the Evolution theory is an attempt by man to take God out of the “Creation Picture”.  The use of the word “theory” also casts doubt, and only fuels the conflict as it is defined in a manner that purports the idea that these are not facts but hypothesis.

This article attempts to highlight some “common ground” between the two schools of thought and harmonise the relations between them.  Hence I think the first thing to do, would be to have little look at the two theories.

Religion

Through the many definitions of religion one can find that there seems to be some common aspects, that religion is a human approach to belief in a supernatural or higher power, the Devine being.

In reference to the written records of human religious experience and ideas, religion began about 5000years ago, and its development has taken many forms in various cultures.

In pre-modern society, it is said that religion was one defining factor of ethnicity, along with language, regional customs, etc. Xenophanes commented that, “men make Gods in their own image; those of Ethiopians are black and snub-nosed, those of Thracians have blue eyes and red hair”.  This statement and the very many types of religions we have, confirm that no one holds the monopoly on religion.

The European colonisation of the 15th to the 19th century contributed extensively to the spread of the Abrahamic religions, namely Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Today about 75% of the world population adhere to classic world religions, 4% to Indigenous tribal religions, and 14% are nonreligious.

As for the creation of life and people, this is what the Christian bible has to say:

  • “In the beginning God created Heavens and Earth…”
  • And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water…”
  • And God said, “Let the water under the sky gather in one place, and let dry ground appear…”
  • Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation…”
  • And God said, “Let the be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons, days, and years…”
  • And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let the birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky…”
  • And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kind…”
  • And God said, “Let us make man in our own image, in our own likeness, and let them rule over fish of the sea, birds of the air, over livestock, over all the earth…”
  • So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

However there seems to be a certain deviation, if any, from the above “Creation theory” coming from the scientific theory.

Science

Human Evolution is the theory which states that humans developed from primates, or ape-like ancestors.  It concerns the emergence on homo-Sapiens as a distinct species from Hominans, great apes and placental mammals.  It is the subject of scientific inquiry that seeks to understand and describe how this change occurred.

The history of the theory goes back to 1856 when some workmen in Neander in Germany found a strange skull. This had little effect to the idea of human evolution; it did however form the notion that there could have been creatures that were half-human and half-ape.

This was until 1859 when Charles Darwin published his work entitled, “The Origins of Species”.  With the release of this book the theory of human evolution became a bit more believable.  The theory stated that the physical traits of an organism are selected for according to the environment it lives in.  Darwin’s book did not address the theory of human evolution; it merely said “…light would be thrown on the origin of man and his history…”

And was the light thrown.  Darwin’s theory saw scientist criss-crossing the country in search of evidence which would branch the gap between humans and apes.  In 1890 an apelike skull with humanlike thigh bone near it was found.  Other fossils began to be found which appeared to be transitional.  This includes the famous Taung child, a fossil aged 2.5 million years found in SA in 1924, which has dubbed SA as the cradle of mankind.

The theories above have been amongst the recent to be at the centre of the conflict between religion and science, and the scientific argument reaches its pinnacle when the “Big Bang” theory of how the earth and other planets formed is added.

The conflict its self dates back to the 17th century, and many theories exist as to why religion sometime seem to conflict with scientific knowledge.

Before the French revolution instituted the secularism, a constitutional declaration of the separation of church from the State, which was soon after adopted by a number of other nation States.  The Roman Catholic Church uses to reserve itself the right to decide which scientific theories were acceptable and which were not.  Galileo was tried and forced to recant the heliocentric theory (Meaning the Sun is the centre of the universe, contrary to Geocentric theory, meaning the earth is the centre of the universe) based on the church’s stance that the Greek Hellenistic system of astronomy (Geocentric) was the correct one.

But then what is theory?  What is meant by the word that is so closely associated with evolution?

The Oxford dictionary defines theory as a hypothesis, a set of ideas produced by reasoning from known facts to explain something. However, in science, a theory is an explanation that binds together various experimentally tested hypotheses to explain some fundamental aspect of nature.  For an idea to qualify as a scientific theory, it must be established on the basis of wide variety of scientific evidence. Its claim must be testable and it must proposed experiments that can be replicated by other scientists.

Richard Dawkins said, “Evolution is a theory in a special philosophical sense of science, but in terms of ordinary lay men’s use of language, it is a fact. It is a fact in the same sense that the Earth goes round the Sun.  Both these are theories, but they are theories that have never been disproved and never will be disproved”.

Scientists say it is about as sensible to doubt that evolution occurs as it is to doubt that gravity exists.  On Earth, release an apple and it will fall towards the planets.  This is a fact, and the theory that explains this phenomenon is the theory of gravity.  Similarly, all living organisms share a common ancestry. This is a fact, supporter not only by the visible similarities in body structure among organisms, but by evidence from genetics.  The theory that best explains these similarities is Evolution.

There have been efforts from both sides of the fence to try and mend the relations between the two.  Isaac Newton believed that gravity caused the planets to revolve about the Sun and he credited God for this saying, “This most beautiful system of the Sun, Planets and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being”.

Most of today’s historians are moving away from the view that the relationship between Christianity and science is one of conflict, and although controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christians to new scientific theories, studies have show that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavours.

In the Baha’i faith, an Abrahamic religion, the harmony of science and religion is the central tenet.  The principle states that the truth is one, and therefore true science and true religion must be in harmony, thus rejecting the view that science and religion are in conflict.

This means that even though they are between science and religion in areas such as the validity of Keplerian Astronomy, the theory of evolution, the method of creation of the Universe and the Earth (Big Bang theory), the origins of life etc, there are efforts being made to reconcile them.

However, on a personal note, and also taking the above in consideration. I ask you not to read the big words used in scientific theories, but to merely observe your surroundings and open your ears enough to see what is not being shown,  hear what is not being said, and understand what is being implicated.

The bible says God is the beginning and the end, and indeed he is. It goes on to praise him as the King of all Kings, God of all Gods, the creator of all the Earth and everything that walks it (including the scientists), and all the Earth’s mysteries which we often refer to as nature. It says this knowledge, and the mind to understand it is given to us accompanied by freewill to choose what we want to believe. Yes, religion is a belief, faith, and it does not exist without it. And as mentioned earlier on, no one holds a monopoly over it.

On the other hand, I have observed a number of natural phenomenons; I can’t help but agree with Sir Isaac Newton’s earlier statement. A significant number of phenomenons can be explained by scientific theories but can not be controlled nor recreated.

However the most intriguing, for me, and reaffirming in reference to the subject at hand is the evolution of a Caterpillar into a butterfly.

How, when the conditions are conducive, worms will evolve on a rotting substance and feed on it.  Worms evolve on your stomach when you are still young.  You don’t eat them, they evolve.  No one puts them in the coffin, they evolve.  There are many more examples of evolution occurring in front of us and all of them are explained by scientific theories.  And unlike religion, science is not cast in stone; it is open to scrutiny and debate.

Besides, why can’t God be the one responsible for evolution? Isn’t he the creator of all?  Why should we take the literal meaning of the bible, which was written by men?  What if God is revealing the truth to us through the discovery of theory?  Why can’t it be that God created the Earth and everything in it over a period of millions of years?  He created dinosaurs and destroyed them millions of years before us.  After all, he was, way long before us, and he will be, way long after us.

This article is released on the same week of release of a movie from the controversial Dan Brown’s book entitled “Angels and Demons”. This article is by no means serving as support for the movie nor any idea purported by it.  This is an entirely independent idea, having being conceived about two weeks before the release of the movie, long before I even heard the movie was being released.

This was just an idea to have you Thinking………………………in Ink.

Written by: S. M.

Edited by: N. D.