The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'south africa'
After it emerged that Thamsanqa Jantjie, the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial ceremony, had actually been making it up and just moving his arms about meaninglessly, Slavoj Žižek (no fan of well-meaning liberalism, to say the least) argues, with supreme cynicism, that his doing so was not so much a fraud as a deeper form of honesty, laying bare the hypocrisy of liberalism:
Now we can see why Jantjie's gesticulations generated such an uncanny effect once it became clear that they were meaningless: what he confronted us with was the truth about sign language translations for the deaf – it doesn't really matter if there are any deaf people among the public who need the translation; the translator is there to make us, who do not understand sign language, feel good.
And was this also not the truth about the whole of the Mandela memorial ceremony? All the crocodile tears of the dignitaries were a self-congratulatory exercise, and Jangtjie translated them into what they effectively were: nonsense. What the world leaders were celebrating was the successful postponement of the true crisis which will explode when poor, black South Africans effectively become a collective political agent. They were the Absent One to whom Jantjie was signalling, and his message was: the dignitaries really don't care about you. Through his fake translation, Jantjie rendered palpable the fake of the entire ceremonyOf course, actual deaf people might not agree with this assessment.
In South Africa, a group of self-described "electrosensitives" living near a packet radio tower have been demanding that the tower be moved, and claiming that the radio transmissions were causing health problems, including headaches, rashes, insomnia and nausea. Some of the residents reported the health effects subsiding whenever they left the vicinity of the tower, and recurring when they returned, seemingly proving that the tower was the cause of their health problems. The company's claims that the tower emitted less electromagnetic radiation than (less obtrusive-looking) mobile phone cell towers did nothing to sway them. In fact, the residents continued reporting the ill health effects for more than six weeks after the company secretly switched off the transmitter.
At the meeting Van Zyl agreed to turn off the tower with immediate effect to assess whether the health problems described by some of the residents subsided. What Craigavon residents were unaware of is that the tower had already been switched off in early October – six weeks before the November meeting where residents confirmed the continued ailments they experienced.
“At the meeting in mid-November residents claimed that full recovery of skin conditions could take as long as 6 weeks. Yet, the tower was switched off for more than 6 weeks by this time,” said Van Zyl. “At this point it became apparent that the tower can, in no way, be the cause of the symptoms, as it was already switched off for many weeks, yet the residents still saw symptoms that come and go according to their proximity to the area.”It appears that some of the residents were adversely affected by the sight of a large, imposing, potentially radiation-emitting tower, and others swayed by the corroborating evidence of their reactions, became convinced that they were affected as well, triggering an epidemic of psychosomatic illness. In any case, the residents' groups, unswayed by anything as mundane as reason, have vowed to continue their legal action.
Nelson Mandela is no longer considered a terrorist in the US. Up until now, the South African former political prisoner and first post-Apartheid president had to obtain a waiver each time he wished to travel to the United States, because the ANC was designated as a "terrorist organisation", meaning that he couldn't just tick the "no" box on the immigration card:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had called the restrictions a "rather embarrassing matter that I still have to waive in my own counterpart, the foreign minister of South Africa, not to mention the great leader Nelson Mandela."
The South African capital, currently known as Pretoria, is being renamed to Tshwane, the name of an ancient African king, and also a word meaning something like "unity". The renaming has to do with breaking links with the old colonial white minority regime.
By the same token, perhaps when the republican debate restarts in Australia, we can expect proposals for renaming Australian cities. After all, why should cities bear the names of dead English noblemen like Viscount Sydney or Lord Melbourne (let alone areas named after imperial war heroes like Baron Collingwood)? Perhaps, if Germaine Greer's Aboriginal republic ever comes about, Sydney can be renamed to "Warrane" or similar, and other places can have similar post-colonial name changes.
I recently read a very interesting book (Where You're At, by Patrick Neate) about the spread of hip-hop culture from the inner cities of America to places like Japan, Brazil and South Africa, becoming a sort of lingua franca of globalised pop culture. Today I found an article which ties in to that, about multi-ethnic hip-hop in Israel, a scene which includes everybody from marginalised Arabs to Ethiopians and Moroccan Jewish rappers rhyming in French. I saw another piece some time ago about Palestinian youths on the West Bank taking to rap to voice their grievances; perhaps we really do live on a hip-hop planet.