Madiba Tribute – New York 2014

February 19, 2014

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 7:35 pm

Imagine sharing a stage with an Academy Award-winning actor? Or being part of a performance by Grammy Award-winning artists? How about thanking a US President after a powerful speech? How about all three of these at the same event? Too much, right? Wrong. Last week, I got to do just that, and the only way that could have happened was if it was about our beloved Nelson Mandela.

New York is indisputably the centre of the human universe. On Thursday 13 February, along with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, CultureHorde and my company, One On One, we hosted a tribute concert to Madiba in the grand Cathedral of St. Paul the Apostle.   New York Magazine and the Wall Street Journal hailed this as the ‘event of the week’. Hollywood A-list actor Morgan Freeman and I told the story of Mandela’s life, interspersed with the magnificent Soweto Gospel Choir performing some of the most poignant songs to the delight of the audience.  President Bill Clinton concluded the evening with a sincere, adulatory keynote address about his friend Madiba.

Former mayors, some of the the wealthiest men and women in America as well as ordinary people came to honour the former President of South Africa in the first international commemoration of his life since his funeral in December 2013. It was an intimate and uplifting affair – there was nothing somber and pretentious about it. Freeman even got up and danced during the choir’s lively “Pata Pata”. “That’s what Madiba would have liked”, said his longtime assistant and friend, Zelda La Grange.

Not even the inclement weather could dampen the spirits of the occasion. The day of the concert was also the day of one of the worst snowstorms in the city this winter, and on the morning of the show, nobody was in town except me. A state of emergency was called because roads had become treacherous and many flights were cancelled. For a few hours I was more than just a little bit nervous that I’d have to do everything – what if the choir, Clinton and Freeman didn’t pitch? Luckily by the afternoon it seemed that the paths miraculously cleared for the safe arrival of all the participants and the several hundred-strong audience.  In true “Madiba magic” style, everything seamlessly came together.

The essence of President Clinton’s tribute was that if it was possible for Mandela to forgive and reconcile, after the 27 years he served in prison, that it might also be possible for us to walk away from even justified anger with another person, especially if they were different. He said that was the problem with the whole world – that people fought because they saw each other as different, and because they thought their anger was justified. He said that he had asked Madiba if he hated his jailers, and that he had replied “Yes, but only for a few seconds, then I forgave them.” And that Madiba had told him that continuing to hate them would have kept him in prison forever. To be truly free, he had to let go of anger and bitterness.

Doubtless many people in the audience knew the story of Mandela’s life, and I’m sure many of them had heard President Clinton, eloquent as he is, speak before. We had all heard the beautiful, distinctive voice of Morgan Freeman in his countless movies – he had played Mandela and even god. In America, the Soweto Gospel Choir are even more popular than they are at home. What made that night so special was that it was all very sincere, and it was about keeping the Mandela legacy alive. That must remain our focus in South Africa, and if Clinton is right, we can apply his philosophy to the world and make it a better place. The world loves South Africa, and they love our story. Let’s give them even more to be impressed with as we head towards 20 years of democracy, next year.

THE NELSON MANDELA TRIBUTE CONCERT

February 3, 2014

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 2:19 pm
As an advocate for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, I’m honoured to host this prestigious event alongside Madiba’s friends, President Clinton and Morgan Freeman. It’s gratifying to see the commitment to Madiba’s legacy not only here in South Africa, but worldwide.

Featuring: President William J. Clinton, Morgan Freeman, Gareth Cliff, & Soweto Gospel Choir

Thursday, Feb 13th @ 7pm

The Cathedral of St. Paul the Apostle
405 West 59th Street, NY NY

The tribute will take you through the life and times of the late, great Mr. Mandela, and includes musical performances by the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir. Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman will perform dramatic readings of Mandela’s early uprising speeches, letters from Robben Island imprisonment, and presidential speeches. President Bill Clinton will close the evening with a lengthy tribute describing his relationship with this great man.

Former Mayor David Dinkins will host a special VIP reception after the event for just 75 people, where guests will have the opportunity to meet and speak with Morgan Freeman, President Clinton, Foundation staff, and other VIPs.

Ticket proceeds benefit the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Mandela-Invitation

Where to from here? fabd

December 23, 2013

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 1:54 pm

The death of Nelson Mandela has stirred in all of us some powerful emotions and perhaps in some, a desire to retrace the unsteady first steps of a fledgling democracy, even if some of us were too young to experience them first hand.

I am utterly bereft and I never thought I would be. I’m cynical, and I admire cynicism in others; I don’t believe in idol worship or iconography; I’m not persuaded by propaganda or politicians, even good ones like Obama. I have been moved and had my heart ripped open by the extraordinary events of the past few days, by the man who manifested them, and by the attention our little country received, punching far above our weight in influence and attention. In a rare failure of the head, the heart won.

Patriotism is a hollow thing, harmlessly put to use in sport, and dangerously wielded by exploitative political forces. National identity and pride are more valuable, omnipresent and useful. Until very recently we hadn’t golden thread to What binds us together in this country? What is it to be South African? I’m not ambitious enough to attempt to answer that, but I can think of a few things we can do to get there:

White people:

1. South Africa does not belong to you, and it never did. Owning things is a big part of being white: We toil away so that we can own our houses, pay for our children to go to good schools, to buy things that impress other white people. You cannot own a country, and in 1994 nothing was taken away from you that you had any claim to. You need to understand this and show some integrity.

2. You are responsible for apartheid, even if you didn’t support it, or you were born long after it was dismantled. Your history is the same as the plantation owners of America before the abolition. If African-Americans are still dealing with that inheritance more than 150 years later, you would be callous in the extreme to imagine that black South Africans must somehow ‘move on’ a mere 20 years since Democracy.

3. If your guilt keeps you looking inwards instead of out; if you keep building laagers and insist on your culture being under threat from some non-existent foe; and if you keep teaching your children that there was more good than bad before 1990, you are condemning them to irrelevance or exile.

4. If the whole wide world is joined in an opinion that is opposite to the opinion you harbour, you’re just wrong. And if you’re wrong, you can change. If you think they made too much of a fuss over Mandela, or that blacks will never run things as well as whites, or that life in 1983 was better than life is now – you’re objectively wrong. You cannot allow your own romanticized idea of your youth or a more innocent time obscure the truth of a brutal reality that went on for other people under your halcyon sky.

5. Don’t tell people, just because you fear change, that things have gone ‘far enough’ or that you are now the victim of unfair discrimination. You are not. You are still the beneficiary of history, even if you didn’t get the job that one time. When you talk about reverse racism or affirmative action you sound like someone who hasn’t read enough history books.

Black people:

1. I’m sorry. Nothing I can do can rewrite the disgrace of the past. Please believe me that I’m sorry. Not because you have to, but because I care about history and while I might not have lived through the hopeless, desperate degradations you or your parents did, I have taken the trouble to learn about them. I know you don’t trust the white man, and I know we have lied to you for thousands of years, but I don’t want you to be my friend – I cannot ask that of you, I only want to be your equal. If you won’t accept my apology, we can’t get there.

2. You have been asked to compromise over and over again. It is not fair, but I will ask that you give even more: Taking everything I have will not reverse our roles and give you satisfaction, it will only make you into the same creature that oppressed you. You know how  much you hate what racism and apartheid did to your mother, your sister and your own soul. To wish to exact that upon another would mean you have learned nothing.

3. Your chief is not your leader and your leader is not a chief. Just as white people have oppressed and asserted an authority they did not have over Africans, a black man who abuses you from a position of power is as much an oppressor. Freedom is something you have fought for. Nobody can give you freedom – and once that freedom is yours, they can never take it back, no matter who they are.

4. Please understand that white people are very easily scared. They’re skittish and nervous and the ones that are here in South Africa were chased out of Europe by other white people. In the back of their minds, they are waiting for any excuse to run again. They really believe that every black person secretly wants to kill them. Sometimes the dangers they perceive are real (the same dangers you face every day) and sometimes they are irrational and hysterical. Keep telling them everything will be OK. If they feel safe, white people can make a terrific contribution.

5. We need to enhance our self-esteem. Black South Africans have been beaten down and told for generations that they’re second-rate. You can break that cycle. Yours could be the generation to stand proud in the face of overwhelming odds against you. Nobody can do that but you, and you needn’t be lied to or be made to feel inferior again. Don’t let racists and sexists and religious bigots of all kinds try to own you or exact loyalty for anything.

Being black or white is not the most important thing about you. I don’t like the collective nouns or classifications people use to describe me. If you want to describe me, use adjectives like funny, ugly, sarcastic or relaxed. Don’t say I’m white, rich and young. I’m an individual. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel that’s a healthy attitude. I know black people who behave the way racists think whites should and I know whites who think they’re black. They’re the most interesting people I know. Don’t let us develop a new lexicon for discrimination by calling people chizkops, coconuts or amaqaba.

We have an opportunity to embrace change and take the high road or hide away from each other and turn the fairy tale into a tragedy. I know which I’d prefer… Do you?

Media Release: #MandelaLWTF – The Journey continues with a social media first

November 26, 2013

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 4:55 pm

Date of Release: 26 November 2013

Join the conversation and live Tata’s Legacy

With the long-awaited release of the autobiographical movie – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – on 28th November 2013, Gareth Cliff with #HandsAcrossSA, together with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Ster Kinekor, are encouraging everyone in South Africa, and indeed the world, to see the movie and join in the conversation.
To this end, the first social media hub in South Africa has been developed. To accompany each and every screening of the movie, the movie public are urged to hashtag #MandelaLWTF and engage across the board in the spirit of true dialogue.

Thanks to the marvels of modern communication, every tweet, Facebook update and Instagram post using the hashtag #MandelaLWTF will be collected in a social media hub on http://www.garethcliff.com where everyone can be part of the discussion and inspire a global movement.

“This campaign is about living the legacy. Allowing dialogue to flourish and creating a springboard for positive engagement and change,” says Sello Hatang, Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. “The making of the movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has been a long and intense journey. I have had the privilege of viewing the film and the ending is a powerful call to action for what we need to do as South Africans and indeed the world. What this represents and signals is the handing-over of the baton of leadership. Madiba said: “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now”.

Nelson Mandela International Day 2013 celebrated on Madiba’s birthday on 18th July, saw the launch of Hands Across South Africa (#HandsAcrossSA) when Gareth Cliff, 5FM Breakfast Show host and Idols judge, invited everyone to join hands at 8.45 for 67 seconds as a gesture of unity and commitment to making our country a better place. This became the top trending topic on Twitter with photos being posted from across South Africa. “It may not seem like much, but a simple, symbolic action can manifest very powerful consequences and feelings. At very least they can be the beginning of something that can (in the modern lingo) ‘go viral’ and start a movement” Gareth said. “This social media hub for #MandelaLWTF will become a living archive of people’s thoughts, interactions and photographs.”

Says Doug Place, Marketing Executive of Ster-Kinekor Theatres: “Ster-Kinekor is extremely proud to be associated with the much-anticipated biopic, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and we are aware of the growing excitement and talkability that is building around the film’s release this Thursday. This partnership with Gareth Cliff and the Nelson Mandela Foundation is a wonderful initiative to get South Africans sharing their thoughts and feelings – using the #MandelaLWTF – about a local film that honours a true global icon revered the world over.”

The social media hub was developed with Zoomph in Washington DC. “Working on the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom project has been an incredible experience,” said Ali R. Manouchehri, CEO of Zoomph. “Zoomph Social Hubs centralize and organize inspiring social media content in a way that engages and connects social media users around the world. And in this case, our visualizations have sparked conversations that are key to both remembering a critical piece of history, and bringing people together to communicate as an evolving culture”.

Nelson Mandela’s legacy has created the opportunity for our nation and indeed the world to achieve a common future. To this end, active discourse is key. Discourse and active engagement is fundamental to the legacy of Madiba and to South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. He based his entire life on this principle and on the art of listening and speaking to others; it is also the art of getting others to listen and speak to each other. It is a vital instrument for addressing critical social issues and the most effective vehicle for sharing memory, for growing it, and for engaging it in the promotion of social justice.

“Nothing brings more pride and satisfaction to the old guard than to know that the ideas for which they have sacrificed so much are coming to fruition at last”. – Nelson Mandela

For more information:

Danielle Melville – Nelson Mandela Foundation
daniellem@nelsonmandela.org

Rina Broomberg – Hands Across SA
rina@oneononesa.co.za

Earth is full.

October 31, 2013

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 8:07 am

EarthIf you can’t pass a test or exam, you don’t get the certificate or degree. If you don’t get that special license, you can’t operate an articulated crane. If you can’t fit into the jeans, there’s no reason to buy them at the clothing store – and if you’re not completely convinced that you can do the best job possible, you might want to think again about bringing a child into this world.

It seems that because some peoples’ genitals work, they imagine parenting will concurrently come to them out of nowhere, naturally. The abundance of losers, criminals and psychopaths in society would indicate that this is not the case. People may know how to make a child, but they sure as hell don’t seem to be able to adequately raise a child. Parenting is the hardest job in the world, but unlike every other job on earth, there are no KPAs or competency tests and people get very upset with you when you suggest there should be.

Just because a handyman can plane a bit of wood, screw in a screw, weld a joint or lean a ladder against a wall does not mean that I would trust that person to fix the plane that I’m currently taking to Cape Town. Only an idiot would. Somehow, either because of overweening solipsism or instinct or religious indoctrination, the very idea of evaluating a parent horrifies some people. Mostly parents. Mostly bad parents.

A human child is one of the most complicated, sensitive, impressionable, delicate and dangerous creatures in all the universe. Simultaneously filled with potential, innocence, curiosity and fear – and deeply dependent on its parents to nurture it and give it succour, the inability of these parents to do anything but an impossibly good job could result in the said child developing into a monstrous adult. Without access to basic resources, not to mention care and kindness – or an educated example of civility, the child could become immediately and permanently disadvantaged and stunted. To burden everyone else around him or her for the rest of their natural life seems a horrible inheritance for a creature that had no hand in it’s own creation.

Yet this is what happens – all over the world and in all societies, among rich and poor alike. People make children. We’re past the seven billion mark and we now produce less food than we need to sustain our growth. It is clear that humanity is in no danger of becoming extinct and there is every possibility that we will deny all other animals the chance to survive, as our needs begin to limit theirs. Something’s got to give.

In Whitney Houston’s power ballad “The Greatest Love Of All”, she sings that children are the future. I’m sorry Whitney, but while children may be the future, mine won’t be there to provide for yours. If bad parents keep making babies, they can be sure that any progeny I might have had will not need to be their friends, help them along or get involved in their squabbles over water and land and money. I won’t give my children that future because I won’t have children. For those with children, that will be their future. All around me I see sensible people who resolutely have decided to do the same.

Let me be very clear: I have nothing but love and respect for parents who love and respect their young. If my parents hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here. I never argue against myself, so you can be sure I see the value and joy there must be in seeing your family grow, and your genes multiply. There can be no greater accomplishment for a human mammal than to guide a child to successful, independent adulthood. To do less though, borders on the criminal.

If all parents were tested, and they were judged on the mental, physical and emotional stability of their children, I fear a great many would fail to make the grade. Even Angie’s 30% pass mark might be too high a standard for all the moms and dads of the world (The dads would fare especially badly I should think). I won’t play a game I can’t win, and who knows, I might be a great dad, but it will remain a moot point. I’d rather not risk someone else’s life trying to prove it. Not now at any rate!

I would never tell anyone else not to have children. How dare I? How dare anyone? If however you don’t or can’t have kids, thank you for the parking space not taken up by a gigantic people-carrier with a ‘BABY ON BOARD’ sticker on the back window. Thank you for the fact that I don’t have to put up a pool net. Thank you for the fact that I can still watch violent or naked people on TV without having swearing blocked out. You see, if you do have children, those are things you have to worry about, and you chose to. I’m opting out.

Busy Looking Busy

October 11, 2013

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 8:31 pm

WomenThe ANC Women’s League had some big meeting this week where Comrade Angie Motshekga reminded all the gals that their main role was to wait for men to give them permission to run for the top job in the land.

Of course spokespeople were quick to spin her lame self-loathing nonsense statement as something which it was not, but the Women’s League has already been shown to be nothing but another structure to placate the ambitious female cadres who jostle for position in the higher, rarified reaches of the ANC tree. At best it is that, at worst it’s just another noisy antechamber to the real political purpose of the party – finding jobs for people who could never get jobs outside of politics.

The Women’s League should be less concerned with securing half the offices in politics and more concerned with the fact that women in South Africa are treated by men as objects and chattel. They should be concerned with rape, the fact that men make ‘their’ women breeding machines that churn out babies without so much as a hope of consent, with adultery and cheating and a disgraceful lack of respect and parity that ‘cultural practices’ hand down to women.

The Women’s League look for press opportunities and sing songs and meet with lists of demands but do only these cosmetic things. They make not a peep when it comes to polygamy, to the plight of single-mothers in rural communities who raise children without any interest, let alone help, from the fathers of these children. The Women’s League, just like the now-defunct Youth League and dwindling Unions are there only to provide a bloc of votes at election time. When there aren’t any elections, they are patted on the head and ignored, like the second-rate, ‘weaker’ sex, also-rans they really are in the eyes of their masters.

The real women of South Africa just do what they have always done – they hike up their skirts, roll up their sleeves and raise the next generation, usually without men. If we don’t change this from the bottom up, and not the top-down, we have some gall calling ourselves civilized.

America Over A Barrel.

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 6:30 pm

AmericaYou may be forgiven some schadenfreude when you take in the fullness of the clusterfuck that is US party politics in 2013. On the one hand you have the weak-willed and undetermined Democrats and on the other the over-zealous, ideological extortionists of the Republican Party.

Those on the moderate right claim the government shut-down is a result of intransigence on the part of Obama to deal with the deficit and spending. The far-right admit it’s about ‘Obamacare’, guns, Jesus and taking America back. Whatever the hell that means. What we know for sure is that they’ve reached the debt ceiling and non-essential government services have been ‘furloughed’. Yes, add that bullshit to your urban dictionary.

Old white men filibustering about how to undermine each other and hold on to jobs the American people aren’t sure they want them to have is the real business of Washington. Incumbents can’t be defeated at the polls because they’ve gerrymandered their districts, changed the rules of engagement or just flat-out bought out any would-be usurper. This has created an expensive and destructive class of super-elites, funded by PACs and answerable to nobody who see it as their primary function not to serve, but to cling to office.

We are witnessing the decline of the American Empire – by the perversion of the structures intended to ensure fairness and democracy, where power would have checks and balances. Like Rome or Greece before it, ambitious men with ignoble purpose now twist and bend facilities that are there to solve problems and turn them into the source of new problems.

The Pursuit Of Happiness

September 30, 2013

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 4:14 am

G Carl and G on beachHave you ever stopped and thought of your life as a computer game? You know, where you remember to click on SAVE when the game is going well, so that if it all gets screwed up you can start again from where you were happy? I often think of that, and it pays to pause and appreciate when your game might be worth saving.

Thomas Jefferson said in the preamble to the American Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, and that they are imbued with certain inalienable rights, namely: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But while the first two seem more than possible, and entirely attainable in a civilised society; the last-mentioned is more complicated to achieve.

Happiness, as I read last week in a Huffington Post article, can be defined as the distance between your expectation and your reality. If your reality is a miserable existence the expectation of a good night’s sleep is enough to make you happy. If your expectation is to be a billionaire while you languish in a middle-management bureaucratic job, you’re unlikely to close the gap. The shorter the distance between expectation and reality, the happier you will be.

Some South Africans think they’re going to die tonight. Their own family is predatory, they have no security to speak of and will be fortunate to find a warm meal and succour. Their expectations are very low. Waking up tomorrow might be enough to make some people happy, and a government grant might be enough to ensure their satisfaction with the machinery of state. They would like their sports team to do well over the weekend.

Other South Africans will drive home in luxury cars to a privileged existence, dine on fine food and sleep in Egyptian cotton linen. Their expectations might include an accumulation of material things, and the respect and admiration of their co-workers. They would like their sports team to do well over the weekend.

Here are some things that definitely won’t make you happy:

1. Expensive things. We all know someone who has everything money can buy but who just can’t enjoy life. Consumer culture, advertising and jealousy have convinced us that if we just have more stuff we’ll be fine.
2. Someone else. You can’t expect someone else to ‘complete you’(in the words of a cheesy, romantic Tom Cruise movie). If you’re an incomplete person, you’re going to steal from that other person like a parasite. Enhance each other, but don’t try to complete anyone but yourself.
3. Fame. Just because people know your name or your face doesn’t mean they’ll think highly of you. Sometimes being famous can magnify your mistakes and amplify the insecurities. Do you really want more people to know you, just so more people can dislike you?
4. Looking really good. I’m not sure about this one, because I’ve never thought I looked good – but people tell me we all get old and unattractive eventually. Even ugly and fat people have sex, so maybe we shouldn’t be too preoccupied with how we look.

So what will bring you contentment? That depends on who you are and what’s important to you. Only you know the answer to that.

If pessimists are trying to make themselves happy by setting low expectations, and optimists are expecting everything marvelous to happen when their reality isn’t good at all, then perhaps the healthiest attitude is something in between. Life needn’t be a walk in the park, nor a burdensome struggle.

The pessimist, crying into his hands, laments: “Oh, things couldn’t possibly get any worse, could they?” To which the optimist replies with a smile, “Of course they could!”.

If things are going well, and you suspect you might have seen a glimmer of happiness, remember to take a minute and SAVE your game.

The Newsroom

August 30, 2013

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 3:12 pm

ANN7ANN7 will have the best ratings of any local news channel for the past two weeks, but not for many weeks after. Everyone is talking about them, and that’s great for ratings – even if they’re laughing. Nobody is talking about the professional, seamless job Peter Ndoro does on the 24-hour SABC channel or how great Iman Rapetti is as a news anchor. Nobody cares about them.

When people on the street talk about ANN7, they call it the ‘Gupta Channel’ or ‘that news show where none of the presenters seem to know what they’re doing’. Nobody has been very sympathetic, optimistic or complimentary. You don’t have to be, and I don’t want you to feel bad:

Schadenfreude is partly to blame for the thrill that ANN7 provides – because most people are horrible, and take pleasure in the problems others encounter – if only because they don’t have to encounter them themselves. Every time a newsreader slips up with a name, the control room goes on air, or some poor bewildered young girl stares doe-eyed at the camera hoping for someone to save her from an autocue that has rolled past; we laugh mockingly, somehow imagining that we could do a better job.

I remember listening to radio when I was a child. I waited for those occasions when the ‘announcers’ – as they called themselves, screwed something up – dropped a tape, scratched a record, left a microphone on or broke down on air. It hardly ever happened, but when it did I loved it. It was so real. In some ways, those unpolished disasters made radio accessible, and radio wasn’t as real then as it is now. It’s worth noting that eventually radio became so real that it changed all the other media and even gave birth to Reality TV.

TV News people are always so smooth – they’re dressed up, made up, with perfect hair and perfect teeth. They can pronounce difficult Russian names, seem to know all about what’s going on in the world and make us feel that nothing could be so dramatic or disastrous that they wouldn’t be there to tell us about it every night at the appointed time. They’re a part of our lives and we end up having a relationship with the best ones.

ANN7 is to be commended for giving a break to the young guys and girls who want to be broadcasters – but some of them don’t care about broadcasting, knowing and communicating the news to us or forming a relationship with their audience. Some just want to be on TV, like a whole bunch of the Idols contestants I get to see year in, and year out. Broadcasting is tough. You have to work hard at it. If you’re lucky and you don’t give up, you might be good after about ten years. Before you get to ten years, other people have to support, coach and believe in you enough not to fire you.

There are millions of people who sit at home watching TV, or listening to radio who say to themselves smugly “Oh, I could do that!” The truth is that you couldn’t. The best people are really talented, driven and need experience. Just because they do their jobs so publicly doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot that goes on behind the scenes. You’re not an expert on TV or radio just because you listen to it or watch it. Most people couldn’t do what the best in the business do with such ease that it looks simple. Like the duck floating on the surface of a pond – all the hard work is going on below the surface.

ANN7 has shown just how tough a real broadcast is to pull off. We may laugh, but they’re ordinary real people, and this is what happens when reality TV crosses into The Newsroom.

We Don’t Give a Monkey – Published in City Press 18 August 2013

August 19, 2013

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 11:26 am

You and me baby, ain’t nothing but mammals – so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.

Animals Funny_Are We Having Fun YetWe can’t be civil with each other so it’s no surprise that humans struggle to find compassion to treat any animals, even our closest relatives, decently. It may, in fact, be argued that we’re very much nastier to chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys and baboons than we are to other animals – perhaps because to those of us insecure about our common ancestors, they mockingly display how lowly our origins might be.

I spent a day last week at Chimpanzee Eden in Mpumalanga – a place that rehabilitates these poor, endangered cousins of ours from maltreatment and extermination. You should go there, just to meet one creature in particular.

Cozi is 15. He has expressive, but chaotic eyes and a good coat of lighter hair. He comes from the Congo. When I first saw him he sat at the fence, swaying his head from side to side, like an unsure Bollywood dancer. He opened his mouth and stuck his tongue all the way out and rolled it back into his mouth, looking up at the sky in a deranged, distracted way. He watched us for a while, then forgot we were there, then saw us again, and made displays of power and authority –just in case we thought we were the leaders of his cartload (no, that really is the collective noun for chimpanzees). He was different. The other chimps tolerated him – with the exception of the alpha-male, Zac, who needed to remind Cozi (quite frequently) that he was in charge, because Cozi couldn’t remember that it wasn’t him. This was done with violence and noise.

Cozi is a special-needs chimp, to put it mildly. He spent the first years of his life in a research facility in America, having all manner of hallucinatory and mind-altering substances tested on him. After that, he toured Italy with a gypsy as a trickster, pointing at different parts of his body when prompted for the amusement of an audience (the collective noun for us) of humans. When he got it wrong, Cozi would be thrashed on the head, further pulverizing his already damaged brain. He’s like the crazy grandmother, drunkle (drunk uncle) or eccentric relative we all have – and just like the stranger members of our own species, he’s a lot more interesting than the normal ones.

Whether you look at the best or the most vulnerable members of an animal, and especially primate society, you cannot help but think of how far we still have to go as the most successful (and lucky) of the animals on earth. We have made great strides to overcome the inconsequential differences, arbitrary prejudices and artificial inequalities we imposed on our own brothers and sisters. How much more must we evolve before we can overcome the stupid delusions of superiority we imagine we have over other species? If the evolutionary tree had shot off in a different, random direction, it might be us who were put in the laboratories of another species, or beaten on the head when we failed to point to our noses.

There is a curious species that looks very similar to the chimpanzee – they’re called bonobos. Bonobos are led by alpha females – chimpanzees are ruled by males. Chimps solve their problems by violence – bonobos by having sex. Chimpanzees mate infrequently from behind, bonobos do it facing each other – and often. Chimp babies are born with pale skin which turns dark with age, bonobos are born with dark skin and red lips. If you’re a bonobo you make A and E vowel sounds, chimps make noises with O and U vowel sounds. Of all the animals on earth, these two species are our closest genetic relatives – and the gap isn’t very wide. If we’re the superior tribe we have a funny way of showing it.

Find out how to adopt, volunteer and donate to Chimpanzee Eden at http://www.janegoodall.co.za/

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