Michel Foucault (1) in 1967 wrote an unpublished article entitled “Des Espace Autres” (2) whereby he introduced the concept of heterotopias. In this reflection I want to make that obscure article plainly accessible and relate its relevance to a space in the Mozambican town of Manica, a space called Futeco Park (3) (hereafter Futeco). Both Foucault and I, for different reasons focus on multiplicity, a desanctification of homogenous spaces, both geographic and philosophical. Foucault holds that we live in a ‘epoch of space’ which is an “…epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of near and far, of the side by side, of the dispersed.” Time has changed space, partly due to air travel and internet and partly due to demystification of thought. I will now relate Foucault’s ideas of heterotopias, then apply that to Futeco and lastly explore learning (as opposed to teachings) for the world of so called ‘development’.
A preliminary reading of Foucault might be intimidating or frustrating for a popular audience and it is important to take his vague sentences and ensure that our commentary illuminates its idea in simple language and not to enthral his notions in further obscurity by employing pretentious linguistic metaphor. At the heart of Foucault’s argument lies the notion that relations are a more valid term of reference than the construction and dichotomised allocation of actual space. If this sounds confusing it is a result of my inability to articulate: simply put, the idea of space or place is very important but what makes it important is how it affects and is affected by our relationships, with each other, with things, with history and with ourselves. Society through its relational frameworks give meaning to space, and that obviously changes over time as society and culture itself changes. “We do not live in a homogenous and empty space” is how Foucault would express this. Furthermore, he states that “The space in which we live, which draws us out of ourselves, in which the erosion of our lives, our time and our history occurs, the space that claws and gnaws at us, is also, in itself, a heterogeneous space.” In this simple explanation lies the crux of his concept of heterotopias, a big ‘koeksister’ of a word for a simple idea.
By illustrating how Futeco is a heterotopia, the very concept of a heterotopia will become clear. Futeco is significant for a few reasons. It is not a mere public space, it is a heterotopia, a form of realised utopia (a dream) that influences other spaces through the tension of its existence in a contradictory stance towards normative architectural and ideological expressions. Heterotopias are “counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.” Besides this explanation, Foucault uses the image of a mirror to explain the function of a heterotopia, a real reflection of reality that affects reality. These mirrors or heterotopias, find expression in all cultures.
Foucault mentions a few principles of heterotopias, and I will highlight these as they apply to Futeco. Traditionally, heterotopias involved forms of psychological crisis or trauma and included, from the place of ‘deflowering’ on honeymoon, to boarding schools, prisons and retirement homes. All these places were reflections of reality to accommodate people who had difficulty in normal society. In Manica, Futeco addresses a crisis of poverty, broken-families, recreational infrastructure, economic empowerment, cross-cultural interaction and lack of education; all of which are legacies of colonialism and civil war. Secondly, as is already apparent from the above example, a heterotopia can have multiple functions that can change over time. What starts as a space to play sport can grow into a learning space and eventually become an environmental conservation project that incorporates social enterprise! Thirdly, the heterotopia is a reflection of many things, it has “superimposed meanings” and represents diverse institutions at the same time, just like a cinema or a garden. Futeco, with its football fields, become the local theatre for young gladiators to express themselves regardless of surrounding poverty. Futeco also contrasts the sterility of the typical classroom at public schools with an open space where learning can take place. Another characteristic is that heterotopias represents unique periods or moments in time, which Foucault call heterochronies (different times). A simple example is a museum or library that tries to capture the past in a present location. Futeco is juxtaposed by the main clubhouse of GDM, whereas the clubhouse has a historical link and remembrance, Futeco is aimed at a future expression, the two sites being three kilometres apart and the old in the town centre, but the new on the outskirts, drawing the town and the people out to grow and explore. A Fifth principle of heterotopias is the idea of passage, of opening and closing. Unlike a normal public space, like the park in the town centre, Futeco is accessible through certain rites and conditions: belonging to a football team, coming to play or learn, coming in to do volunteer work, being an adepto of GDM. The space is public and private at the same time. Lastly, heterotopias comments on other real spaces. This happens through a illusionary or symbolic commentary on other real spaces and Futeco does that and to a degree is an ideal or utopian vision, but heterotopias can also be alternative real spaces, that meets needs that our current spaces do not address sufficiently and again Futeco serves this purpose. Futeco thus meets all six principles that Foucault lays out as characteristic of heterotopias.
Next to Futeco Park is a cemetery. Easily observable in the irony of its massive trees and overgrown bush. Futeco Park has as one of its objectives the protection of nature and the conservation of natural habitat. Ironically, in the town of Manica, it is the living spaces of living people that kills nature and flora, whilst the cemetery is the only sight where trees are not cut, and the cemetery becomes a gigantic green bouquet of the dead, celebrating life. Cemeteries are one of Foucault’s main examples of heterotopias and he explains how in Western society the cemetery used to be at the heart of the town, but today it has been moved to the outskirts to form an alternative town, of the dead. The cemetery that is now next to Futeco, use to be on the outskirts, but with Futeco moving to the outskirts, life is encroaching upon death! Bringing youthful liveliness into reflective contact with those that learnt and played before us. An aerial picture shows three layers of vegetation: the disturbed areas of normal Manica life, the somewhat conserved area of Futeco (after year 4) and the rich forest of the cemetery in the near background. Futeco inherited, unintentionally, a significant and profound neighbour and the actual presence of the cemetery might be worth more that many pages of life-skills curriculum.
In post-graduate studies you will come across a few words that basically mean the same thing: dichotomy, binary or dualism, all of which refers to mans cheap tendency to understand things and sound clever through simplistic comparison. The lazy mind loves these dichotomies. Heaven and hell, teacher and student, city and nature, hunter and hunted, poor and rich, stupid and smart, Europe and Africa, black and white, male and female, and so it goes on. So, if you want to save yourself five years at university, simply learn that the truth is grey, that all things are interrelated and not isolated opposites. Search for relationships between things and don’t divide them. Development has consistently proven itself incapable of this transition, and due to the World Bank, USAid and the like insistence to ‘snap out of it’ we now sit with a field called ‘post development’. I understand that it is difficult to open your mind if you risk losing money, control and power. Most educated westerners are simply too scared to venture down a path of development that would firstly, require them to be developed and to unlearn all the quasi wisdom of technocrats. Development practitioners love boxes. A picture of before, a budget to fix that, a picture of the after, to prove that the money was not wasted- this is their heaven. Foucault’s concept of heterotopias illustrates the multiplicity of spaces and the contradictory nature of norms. Life loves to flow over the lines and out of the boxes, life is not only beautifully messy, but the unpredictability and contradictions is what makes life lively.
I could write Futeco and its people into a logframe, but it would be an injustice. I could brand the attempt to merge Futebol and Ecologia (Futeco) like Fifa does through Brazil 2014’s Fuleco, but it would plasticify something that has life in its veins. I could turn the multiplicity of Futeco into a list of objectives, but it will industrialise and rigidify something that is organic. I could organogram the shit out of the Human Resources involved, but it would insult what is currently family. I could build a model and blueprint out of the novel success of Futeco, but it would deny recipient communities a journey. I will not make a case for post development here, I believe the respective scholars does that sufficiently and better than I could, but I wonder why Esteva and Illich are not more prominent around the boardroom tables that discuss the lives of the so called poor. I know that deeper understanding and an appreciation of grey areas and interconnectedness across arbitrary lines does not fit in well with engineering style project management, and until those who give the money start to see the poor as their friends and family, the system will not change, because the money demands a certain style of management. The fact that that management style undermines true development is inconsequential because for these pawns that draw salaries in organisations funded by illiterate cash, money talks and bullshit walks. One can become a specialist to undermine your gut and supress your emotions, especially when a salary and all it buys depends on that. No one acts against their true beliefs, they just make sure their true beliefs do not venture down an inconvenient truth. How I wish there were more brilliant and critical minds like Foucault at work in the development world today. How I wish the experts had the same hunger and structures to learn and grow as those they try to implement for the poor.
Foucault was attracted with the idea and image of a boat, a house that can be home and simultaneously explore the globe, a place that is safe and dangerous, a place of belonging and imagination. To a degree, Futeco is a metaphorical boat for Manicans and their visitors to climb upon and discover back into history some harmony with nature, to travel to current expressions of health and enjoyment, to learn from journeys forward through dreams of a better life.
(1) Pronounced miʃɛl fuko
(2) http://foucault.info/documents/heteroTopia/foucault.heteroTopia.en.html accessed 28 April 2013
(3) A project or expression of Grupo Desportivo de Manica (GDM), who is a community club that tries to do
development through sport. The site was established and name chosen in 2009.
As I see the Football for Hope Centre in Manica realise, I discovered I do not feel proud or excited. I feel more proud of my latest table tennis game or kick of a football.
Yet the Centre is supposed to be the fulfilment of a dream: a massive financial investment, the culmination of lots of initiative and effort, to get our small village chosen as one of 20 in Africa.
Even in terms of utility and local pride, the centre is a monument!
So why am I not that proud and excited personally?
It took me time to explore the issue and with the input of some friends I am starting to identify possible reasons:
– The use of a professional building contractor, led to a much different feeling than when ‘we’ built our other buildings. Even if we made the bricks for this one.
– We went through empty design consultations and in the end foreigners decided what to build and how it should look. Maybe they feel more proud of their creation.
– Considering where they money comes from, the success is a bit bitter-sweet. Since our previous buildings were built with money coming from friends that like us, believe in us and know us.
– Perhaps simply because this time I am in South Africa, while the building was erected in Mozambique
– Now that the building is up, the Governor, Barclays Manager, Mayor and all sorts are visiting and showing interest, catching attention, while in our previous 10 poor years, they were no where to be seen.
list to be continued… still feels weird and ambivalent. clearly I worry more about process than target, being an idealist that believe dominant pragmatism is never a justification for compromise.
There are many forms and expressions of development, but the dominant idea behind the word simply refers to the efforts to address poverty. Post-development scholars have revealed most of the myths associated with development thinking, Rist, Illich, Esteva, Sachs, Shiva and Escobar being the best known. For me, as an aspiring academic who grew up privileged in Africa, there is no option to dismiss development as a tool of control that maintains current power relations. I am forced, by the faces of my friends to redefine and improve developmental efforts. In general the man on the street can encounter three areas of development discourse: government support, corporate giving and grassroots expressions.
Government support, although it can include south-south cooperation (like BRICS) is generally characterised by IMF and World Bank support to governments of poor countries. Typically to build roads or dams, finance health systems or do all sorts of ‘capacity building’. I would categorise multi million dollar projects of huge NGO’s and development agencies like USAID or SIDA in this same group. Most of the scholarly articles on development address initiatives in these categories, for the simple reason that this is where the money is and where there is money you will inevitably find an expert with something to say or write. These are the leaders of the development discourse, followed blindly and naively by all the citizens downstream. By following blindly I include the minor critiques of methods and the debates about minutiae, since the debates seldom question the system, the grand assumptions and the theory of change as affected by power. I will note that certain rules are appropriate when building dams and roads, but those should not be extended to for example, individual rural youths or illiterate women.
In a country like South Africa, corporate social -responsibility or –investment is common and standard practice. Every large corporation has to spend money on SED (socio economic development) and so a new breed of quasi developmental experts arose. These are the unqualified agents that are paid to use the poor to do marketing for their ‘brand’. I have met hundreds of CSI managers and besides being a favourite BBBEE position to fill, these are employees moved from HR or Marketing and they do not have academic or contextual knowledge that could assist them with a proper strategy of engaging the poor and maximising return for the corporation. Companies have ill-defined mandates as to how they should ‘help the poor’ and are normally evaluated instead on the ‘bang for their buck’ rather than any type of sustainable impact on change in the lives of the poor. The poor are current or future consumers and if not, they will be used to show the wealthy customers from what a respectable institution they are buying. CSI have fundamental flaws, yet there is such large amounts of money at stake that one cannot simply ignore or give up on it.
This brings us to the actual subjects of development, the efforts of the so-called poor. I say so-called, because anyone who have lived with the materially wealthy and materially not so wealthy knows how ironic it is to call they guy in the Ferrari rich and the family in a hut poor. Yet, for sake of the conversation I will speak of poor and rich, to indicate those without and with material opportunities that can include income, education, electricity, water, safety, mobility that can translate to the ability to make choices. The journey of a poor person to lift themselves up, with or without assistance from the rich is a journey that has fundamental differences from the two areas of development described above. How you build a road and how you link a brand to a poor community is a very different matter compared to the journey a disadvantaged youth has to follow until he can look any typical westerner squarely in the eye and compete equally on any level. The type of ‘help’ that the ‘West’ and companies give, normally undermines actual development of the beneficiaries. The problem is in the ‘how?’ of the help, and the ‘how?’ is influenced by a refusal to be critical and a refusal to fundamentally challenge the system. The reason for that is that sacrifice is not a concept that sits well with the rich. Their help is viewed as investments and investments are not sacrifices, they don’t lead to losses. Investors need returns that put them in a better position than before they made their investments. In a world with limited resources, true development, the lifting of the poor has to have an affect on the rich that sees them move down. Consumption of luxury goods has to come under scrutiny in the face of human suffering. This does not sit well in the offices of development agencies and CSI offices. They prefer to focus on the technical aspects of the projects they invest in: how to apply, how to monitor and how to evaluate. They are technocrats in that the more you focus on the acronyms and frameworks of documentation (including workshops) the less the chance is that the poor can ask real questions of equality and reciprocity. By treating the poor as a building contractors (who even have to tender!), donors prevent the critique that their involvement is more patronising tokenism than a willingness to really share wealth and promote equality.
Many problems that occur in the direct interaction with actual poor people (called beneficiaries) derive from the metaphors and language made normative by the first two spheres of development (World Bank and Corporates). Development is implemented and talked about today using the language and imagery of finance and investment management. Money is invested, invested money requires a return. To ensure a return normative managerial practices are assumed and these are based on accounting, and traditional project management. In finance they speak of the agency problem, mechanisms has to be in place to ensure the managers are controlled so that they make all decisions with the good of the shareholder in view. Most delopment workers feel a sense of cleverness when they talk about return on investment, human resources, beneficiaries, stakeholders, and other financial metaphors. Yet, they seldom bother to be consistent in their appropriation of imagery. Who is the shareholder in a small NGO or GRO? The model says it is the investor, the person giving money. Yet, surely the actual poor should be the shareholders of their own efforts and lives? Where does that leave the donor, s a stakeholder? The imagery quickly becomes inappropriate. Finance and Investment is all about profit, long term wealth creation for the shareholder, measured in financial wealth. And in this, the fundamental flaw is revealed. Donors and sub donors do business in a way that will suit their investors. Power is thus in the hands of the investor, all the rest become employees. Employees that has to conform to the system if they want a slice of the pie. As sincere development workers continue to claim their main concern is with the benefit of the poor, they refuse to admit the donor is the shareholder and everyone must ensure maximum return for the shareholder. Sometimes they drop words and concepts from other metaphors into this investment game: giving, charity, help, solidarity, autonomy, sacrifice, friendship, love, respect are all words you will not find in a handbook on finance and investment management.
What model or metaphor is appropriate then in the efforts to ‘walk with the poor’? The paradigm that first shattered my way of thinking is the model of a family. I was born as a baby with less skill and ability than any poor person on earth and today I am fully developed and on top of the food chain. Why? Because my parents developed me. My parents made me develop by giving me love and freedom, by making countless sacrifices, and believe it or not, I never filled in application forms as a kid, I was never monitored and evaluated making sure my actions are aligned to my intended outcomes, objectives and goals. There were no audits on my pocket money, there were no written links between budget and outputs and my parents would not reallocate funding if one of my siblings produced better return on investment. Obviously I feel family is a better model to follow when we work with the so called poor. Families are built on love and respect, on commitment irrespective of performance. My family helped me develop; yet there are many families, which are dysfunctional, and never led to the development of their kids. That is not because there is a problem with the idealised views and principles of families, but simply because the parents did not have skills and money. In development, the donors and donor agencies doe have skills and money, yet they could, in theory fulfil the role of good parents just like my mom and dad did. If you are now clever enough not to want to be paternalistic, feel free to call yourself a brother or sister. If we can be honest about where the ‘rich’ can learn from the ‘poor’ then the former can also unashamedly help and teach in other areas where the latter require help. Most empowerment or capacity development workshops are paternalistic and prescriptive any way, so it’s a bit ironic for those organisers to call a family metaphor patronising. A family assumes long-term commitment, compared to a weekend, a year or even a three year intervention. Who change in a year anyway? Me? You? Yet we expect that of poor rural youths and women…
Because of corruption, the system today is obsessed with transparency and accountability, concepts that assumes and reinforce the notion that I am working with potential criminals. Yet, real criminals are experts at writing and reporting and whilst staying in the safety of reports and audits the money never reach the poor. Again the CEO’s and shareholders that demand audits never audit their own children: they trust them. People are quick to employ business or management language when reflecting on dealings with Africa or the poor, yet these cheap borrowings are more parroting of management cliché’s than reflective insight informed by theory and practice. People often talk about the poor, without having poor friends. Talking in abstractions is much different than speaking on behalf of people you call your friends. Development workers are normally hypocritical. They will give a workshop to the poor, yet not house that poor person in their home. If you don’t like my metaphor of family for whatever reason, perhaps consider the metaphor of friendship to guide our developmental efforts. By simply treating every person as a personal and equal friend, you would immediately eliminate 90% of the most common errors and pitfalls. Yet, the rich do not really want to befriend the poor, because it will cost them, it will lead to uncomfortable sharing and sacrifice.
Besides family or friendship, one could also consider classical charity, where giving was not investment, but simply a gift. Talk of the dangers of impersonal hand-outs and the idea of a bottomless pit has made pure giving without payback or control very unpopular, and people justify their conditions and control in the name of stewardship and responsibility. That makes sense in situations where one would just hand out cash to a face you don’t know. Yet, when you have made the effort to know someone deeply, as family member or friend, then a no strings attached gift is often the most empowering thing you can do, because it is translated as respect and belief in that person. That is real empowerment because you gave away, not just cash, but also control. In these situations even failure becomes valuable because the failure and hurt becomes the real classroom where people learn and grow. The freedom to choose and the freedom to fail are worth more than any curriculum and certificate. Those are short-cut replacement for real growth and learning. How many people treat their marriage as an investment? With planning charts, objectives, outputs, outcomes and regular evaluations? How many people go on holiday and quantify the financial investment of that trip in terms of outputs and outcomes? Yet billions of dollars are spent every year by rich people, who ‘instinctively’ knows that the holidays are good for them and justify the expense. Again, it is difficult to practice what you preach! If you want my friends in rural Africa to structure their lives as a financial investment, do the same with your wife, your kids and your holidays… Think.
For development to work, rich people should start to investigate where they need development, where they need to change and grow. Once that starts, then interaction with the poor will become meaningful and mutually empowering. Yet almost all development efforts assume the dichotomy of developed and underdeveloped, the have’s and the have-not’s, the givers and the receivers. If your system does not include two way application processes, 360 evaluation and reporting transparent budgets on both sides, then I am afraid you are doing a primitive form of ‘development’ that use, no, steal, clever words from other disciplines, and this type of engagement will not develop, it will maintain the gap, or increase the gap.
The buzzwords from finance and project management are the give-away signs that someone is depersonalising another person. So every time you hear the word audit, return, capital, risk, stakeholder, report, investment, evaluation, beneficiary, participant, performance or even sustainability; take note because these are the little alarm bells that indicate that the system has made another proselyte. Let’s use the names of our friends, not making generalisations, let’s move closer to each other. Above all, let us not use words, when we don’t even know the history of who introduced those words, when and where and to what purpose. Let us try to refrain from making noise as clever parrots.
To give something to someone should be a humbling honour. To give something to someone on behalf of another is daunting and terrifying; the irony of an arrogant middle man in middle management is not just infuriating, it is sad.
If I were employed to run the CSI division of a wealthy company, I hope that I would try to do things differently. I would be brave in demanding a stark realisation where good theory and good praxis meet. Instead of strategy, scope and return, I would ask questions of value, respect, sacrifice and compassion. Not as a side comment, but as a constant fundamental.
The kid, the recipient of CSI help, that kid is and should be treated as more important as the CEO of the company giving the cash.
For those not familiar with the game, here is a small breakdown of typical events:
– 8 August 2012: Meeting the very important middle man (woman)
– 8 August 2012: She makes her three first time visitors sit and wait in a board room, being 30 minutes late for a meeting
– 9 August 2012: Follow up email sent as requested
– 10 August 2012: The CSI team confirms a visit to the kids for 20 August
– 15 August 2012: Meeting cancelled, after kids were already informed
– 4 September 2012: Follow up email after not receiving a new date
– 10 September 2012: Follow up email
– 6 November 2012: Follow up email after receiving no correspondence
– 14 January 2013: Follow up email after hearing nothing
– 17 January 2013: receive new date for visit to those kids
– 23 January 2013: another confirmation of the visit on 13 Feb 2013
– 11 February 2013: receive notice of cancellation of visit with kids
– 11 February 2013: I sent rude-ish email suggesting no further visits, despite this company having the potential to fund
our whole programme and the fact that it is a perfect strategic alignment
– 11 February 2013: I am driven to blog by my disgust for rich people forgetting ‘their’ people and wondering when the
struggle for dignity and freedom became a struggle for glamour and luxury.
CSI makes sense when it is characterised by true generosity, respect and dignity. Mutual learning and equality should be assumed as normative. Sure there are stories to tell, but if the story behind the story is one of power, paternalism and disrespect, the whole thing gets ugly quickly.
Let us be at our best behaviour when we have a chance of giving, not when we have a chance of gaining. Respect the beggar, uneducated, poor and weak before sucking up to the powerful and wealthy. The latter has the power to promote us, but the former has the power to save us.
The name of my blog is “who needs who?” and the question is nowhere as pertinent as in the relationship between home owner and domestic worker.
I grew up as a child in the 1980’s, apartheid times. We had two domestics (those days called maids or ousies), one for the kitchen and one for the house. It was typical for a large family that lived in a big house on a farm. As is normally the case, relationships with domestics are respectful and pretty kind, especially if you ignore the subtle patronism and class differentiation. Still ‘people tried and try to treat their domestics nicely, not as friends, but as domestics. Some families even eat with or take their domestics on holidays. Personally I have always maintained that if you are going to pay someone to clean up after you, that person should not be your main target as reconciliatory friend. The fake friendships between employer and employee is almost worst than just ignoring each other, cleaning and paying. Nevertheless some people view themselves as their Domestics’ Jesus and if they want to buy the odd grocery or pay school fees for her kids, then its ok I guess.
Since returning from Mozambique and moving into a small flat in Johannesburg, I ‘inherited’ a domestic worker who came to clean my flat on Wednesdays, for R120 per day. So for most of the week I did things myself, but on Wednesdays Josephina would wash the floors and windows, dust, wash dishes that accumulated from Monday and iron my clothing. For a while Josephina simply disappeared but the sent her daughter as a replacement and I actually ended up preferring the daughter as a domestic, since Josephina had a long history of breaking things by accident, turning all my white clothes into yellow (washed with orange UJ shirt) and not showing up quite often. Then as suddenly as she appeared, the daughter made way for the mom again. Josephina strikes me as a good and proud person. Although my Wednesday stint was her only source of income, I always imagined myself to see a bit of resentment on her face. I felt uncomfortable as a young brat to have this dignified mother working in my flat. I also felt weird when my black friends visited my house on Wednesdays, seeing a mother, cleaning up after me. I never felt that way when white friends visited.
To be clear, despite the situations in other countries, in South Africa most domestics are black and most white people have domestics working for them. It is ‘normal’. I have heard this situation mentioned in conversations about racism and inequality. Yet, any reflection is quickly followed up by a ‘its not about colour its about money, rich people will always have domestics in a country where 40% of people don’t have jobs’. If all the domestics get fired, think of all the job losses and suffering, seems to be the standard justification. And then there is the ‘my time is worth ten times her time, so I will rather use my time to make money, then pay someone to clean my house.’ In South Africa, the status quo of domestics is so normal it is hardly a talking point. Yet, for me it has always been a reminder of apartheid, one thing that never changed. Even if the domestic, will choose herself to rather clean up after a white than to be unemployed, it still bothers me.
So, in December 2012, I decided to embark on an experiment, I wanted to see if I could clean up after myself. If I could cope without a domestic. Despite being busy and getting home every evening after work at 20:00, could I manage to keep my flat clean, shirts ironed, dishes washed? Well, so far so good. Honestly, it is nice to walk into a flat that has been ‘magically transformed’ by a ‘little angel’, but the rhythm of cleaning instead of watching TV is also pretty rewarding. In this experiment of mine, I see many contradictions and paradoxes. That is why, although I am happy to say I am a white that does not have a black cleaning m toilet and floors, I do not just do this for good reasons. I like knowing where I put my stuff, I like not having anything broken by accident, I like not having someone else’s mother and wife being my ‘paid slave’.
So what about poor Josephine who was fired? Am I not cruel to let her go? In anticipation of this question, I decided to keep paying her, even if she was fired. That at least puts a different spin on the experiment and conversation.
How long will I continue with this? Not sure. Am I doing good or am I being silly? Not sure. The only thing I know is that every second I spend making my bed, washing my clothes or dishes, cleaning the floor, etc. I get a chance to reflect on myself, on our country, our history, luck, responsibility, dignity and solidarity.
I dont judge anyone who has or who does not have a domestic. I am not sure if I am being selfish or brave. I am not sure I Josephina is honoured in this or not.
I wonder, and to be truthful, for over 15 years I have wondered if I will be able to be someone’s domestic? Really. Will I have the humility, patience and servitude to clean up after a bratty family for a year? This thought have made me wonder how a sabbatical of domestication could work for rich people? It might be more useful that going to a cloister or ‘the mission field’ where you remain a hero and in charge. Most Christians say they want to ‘serve’ like Jesus, but few want to be servants, few want to be domestics.
If I had more ‘tomatoes’ I would take 6 months and be a domestic at a family I don’t know and who don’t know me. That sounds like an interesting journey of self discovery. So who knows, maybe I am currently in training?!
I’m happy to have spent some time in Barcelona and London recently. You cannot really know your own country if you don’t know other countries. You cannot critique Europeans if you have never visited their places.
In many small things our country (Mzansi) is still a baby, perhaps a teenager. In many basics we have not learnt to work together; that a small bit of respect and restraint can pay back for everyone. Two simple examples: littering and driving. We do not yet believe that the country is ours. If we did we would treat it and it’s people better, we would not be so short-term minded and selfish. We are not yet building as a society, the majority of us are in a selfish hustle and struggle to survive and enrich ourselves. Our systems and processes are still weak. People say we have had 18 years of democracy and that things should have changed, but 18 years is nothing. A city like Barcelona or London took a long, long time to get where it is today and still they have problems.
Let the good and smart among us sacrifice, lead and invest; so maybe after 100 years we have a good country.
Tell me about your journey with the ‘poor’?
You dont have a long term story?
You are not the beneficiary and lucky one?
You are not learning and changing?
You are not caught in between hope and despair?
You are not mentioning specific names and examples?
You mention theories, you blame, you generalise, you spiritualise, you reach out and down, you resent, you abstract…
Its easy to hear, see and feel if someone ‘lucky’ is the real deal or not.
Today i went fishing for Tiger Fish at Moringa Bay, Cahorra Bassa, Mozambique. The whole day, we caught nothing. Each person casts the line with its lure into the water more than 500 times in a day; every time reeling it in with the hope to get a hit. And as the empty hook appears again at the end of my reel, i prepare to cast again, hoping that this throw will be the lucky one, the magic one. 500 cycles of hope, application, disappointment and recommitment.
In a way it makes no sense, especially when comparing inputs and outputs, or value for money. Yet the dream and the hope to land the one keeps a person going. Needless to say, i wondered how this applied to development, to working with people, being prepared to put it out there 500 times, without the certainty of getting something in return or immediate satisfaction. Patience and humility. Big in fishing, small in development and CSI circles. Pitty. Maybe fishing should become part of managerial lifeskills ciriculums.
PS: On day two, I finally caught a fish… not that that’s important.
“Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it.”
– David Starr Jordan
Everyone wants a fancy car, a big house, a happy life. All around me I see young people with a certain kind of ambition, it is an ambition likened to a dream, an ambition to be at the top of the ladder. Yet, I see very few people with a driven ambition to take the next step with complete dedication, integrity and discipline, I see few who are willing to sacrifice, sometimes step down or to wait patiently on the ladder. Sometimes, there is no ladder and you have to build the ladder yourself! Some ladders have many small steps, some ladders require a giant leap through the air before you can find the safety of the next rung.
Yesterday, I used an interesting way of reflecting on this issue of ‘taking the next step’. I sat for two hours designing a logo for a company, imagining the name to be Next Step. As I scribbled I had the calmness and time to reflect on the general issue and personal application.