Wake Up Call…

WAKE UP: The Jewish horn, known as a shofar, is blown daily during the Jewish month of Elul.

WAKE UP: The Jewish horn, known as a shofar, is blown daily during the Jewish month of Elul. Photo: Supplied

This time of the year is an especially auspicious one in the Jewish World. It is time of the year that on the one hand, I love and on the other, it instills a feeling of absolute fear within.

Why, you may wonder, do I juxtapose these two opposite feelings together?
Well on the one hand, the Southern Hemisphere is leaving the cold of winter behind and is moving on toward beautiful spring. This seasonal change is a subtle reminder that the time has come to start making a change. This entails doing the task of introspection and making “the” attempt to improve ourselves. It is this part that I love and fear. Realizing the good and more so the bad actions that I have committed or played a part in over this past year…

Elul, which is the final month of the Jewish Calendar brings along with it the blowing of the Shofar or Rams Horn. It is a piercing cry – a wake-up call that tells us that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur – (The Jewish New Year and the Days of Atonement) are coming closer and so we need to rectify our mistakes and change our ways.
This piercing cry of the Shofar (a rams horn blown every morning after Prayers) wakes us from our usual apathetic slumber of normality and jolts us into taking real action!

Unfortunately, for many of us, our wake-up call, came a little earlier and more painfully this year as I’ve seen people close to me pass away – young and old – some leaving families and small children behind.
This year, in the space of three months, I was shattered to lose my gran, a close friend from overseas and a cousin.

After their passing, I began to think. I started to realize that over the course of this year, I have been slowly slacking off in my morning Prayers and a little in my Religious studies and maybe even a little on my kindness to those around me too.

These painful losses have woken me and made me realize that it is time to act; it is time to wake up and start thinking. It is time to do a little more Jewish Studies, time to act kindly and respectfully to those around me, time to appreciate and maybe even time to Pray harder – not just for this month but all year round so that we do not have to experience such a wake-up call like this again… To often we go through life in an automatic mode without giving much thought to our actions. My mission for Elul and the Days of Atonement – to change this!

Sometimes it is scary, when we have to look into ourselves and we realize that we have to rectify those things that need some fine tuning or improvement. Although, it can sometimes be a very daunting task – which, I might add, should be done carefully and in a step-by-step process – it is worth it in the end because we become better people for it!
So to all my readers I ask;  look inside yourself, make the first step to being the improvement; do a good deed, give someone a smile, give a little charity, be kind to those around you, and especially appreciate the ones you love.
You never know what life has in-store.

CUSTOM: Apples dipped in honey are eaten during  Rosh Hashana in hope of a sweet new year. Photo: Supplied

CUSTOM: Apples dipped in honey are eaten during Rosh Hashana in hope of a sweet new year. Photo: Supplied

Remember: the tinniest of good deeds can go a very long way – just think about the “Pay it Forward” idea: a small deed which travelled far and wide in a short time. Something that we can set our minds to and something we can both actualise and internalise if we make the right choices.

On this note may we  only hear of peace and happiness from here on and out!

Through our merits and good thoughts, may these special souls be elevated to the highest level and may we all be written in the book of good and the book of life!

 

Remember Remember that Fateful September

LEST WE FORGET: Memorial of 9/11 taken on September 11, 2013. Photo: CNN

LEST WE FORGET: Memorial of 9/11 taken on September 11, 2013. Photo: CNN

Do you remember? Do you remember?
that fateful September?
September 11 2001…
A shake, a shock, the world just stopped.

We looked to the sky
how could so many innocent’s die?
we did not sleep, we could not eat,
We only did cry…
So many bright souls, their lives forever on hold
We could not think of tomorrow –
So full of sorrow
we could not be consoled.

But then we saw
with a glimmering light
such true bravery was a great sight
Strength beyond measure,
love beyond leisure
Big and small
there were great Heroes galore
doing all they could to help those in mortal peril.
It restored faith in humanity, brought back our sanity

We prayed for peace, we cried for hope
we clung to life, full of a deep strife
Alas we will prevail for we are strong and full of gale
we do not bow to evil!
we will not bow to evil…
For it is said “woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness…”

we will remember…
we will never forget…
the countless lives stolen…
the many tears fallen.

Yes we do remember
Yes we will always remember
that tragic day
in that fateful September.

DESTRUCTION: Aerial view of the Pentagon after 9/11. Photo: Archive CNN

DESTRUCTION: Aerial view of the Pentagon after 9/11. Photo: Archive CNN

Drive careful, watch strong

The screech of the car breaks, a lurch forward and a deep sickening feeling of shock. It slowly turns to horror when I realise what I’ve done.

Tell me I’m dreaming. Tell me this isn’t happening. Not me. It couldn’t be me. Things like this don’t happen to me… I’m a good driver, I’m careful… why?

As human beings, we are genetically inclined to make mistakes but some mistakes are harder to get over.

I’m an anxious driver, I get nervous being on the roads and sometimes the fear does get to me but it’s always made me a more wary and better driver… well at least I thought it did until…

CRASH: The destroyed windshield of a car post a deadly accident. Photo: Anders Graverhold Nielson

CRASH: The destroyed windshield of a car post a deadly accident. Photo: Anders Graverhold Nielson

A week ago I hit someone with my car. I was lucky because I was pulling off from stop street, so I was maybe doing 10 kilometers. I saw him standing there but didn’t think he’d walk as I began to drive. He did. I slammed on breaks but I still hit him. By some miracle the man wasn’t injured despite hitting his leg. Although it wasn’t as serious as it could have been, the fact of the matter is I literally had another person’s life in my hand – it’s a scary thought …

You hear of stories, people you know who have had it worse – “I was turning, he just walked in-front of my car”… “It was dark, she came out of nowhere” … “I was at a robot, it was green for me… red for him”. But you never think it’s going to be you. You try being as careful as possible but it’s not always easy with Joburg drivers taking chances, taxis and the like. It’s hard.

The guilt that such an incident leaves you with is something that digs right into your gut, it’s unbearable. Yes he was fine. Yes nothing happened. And yes all was well. But the thought of what could have happened, what I could of done is all that I could think about for days after it happened. I cried a lot. At the end of the day – no matter whose fault it was – I could of have really hurt him or worse, done the unthinkable: killed him.

“But you didn’t,” said one friend, “He’s okay, you’re okay – stop beating yourself up. People take chances, you didn’t plan this.”

“I’ve heard the feeling it leaves you with is nothing like anyone can understand until a person’s been through it themselves but everything is okay,” said another.

With time the feeling has passed but the paranoia has stuck with me. To the dismay of those driving behind me I have fallen into the habit of checking a few extra times when passing through robots and stop streets or when checking it’s clear to turn.

“The guilt that such an incident leaves you with is something that digs right into your gut, it’s unbearable.”

If I was capable of making this mistake without being distracted; the radio off, there was no-one in the car talking to me and my cellphone out of sight, than how much more so are people who are on their phones, driving and texting or simply just playing with the radio dials capable of making this same mistake?

Too often we take it for granted that we will never be the person in the driver’s seat to cause an accident or knock someone over. We have to remember, cars are dangerous – they’re our travel companions but they are not to be taken lightly.

We have to be aware, we have to be vigilant and we have to do our best to stay away from distractions if we want to avoid being a hazard on the road.

So readers, I implore, be careful, drive smart and don’t distract yourself with cellphones and the like. Your message can wait – your life can’t. Remember that the next time you have the urge to be distracted by a song on the radio or the beep of your phone.

OPINION: Online Activism – making a difference

CHANGE: The world of activism has evolved over time as a result of online platforms. Photo: File Image

CHANGE: The world of activism has evolved over time as a result of online platforms. Photo: File Image

Online activism can be an effective means of making a difference to a cause of any sort – big or small.

As seen in events like the Arab Spring, online activism gathered the masses and encouraged people in the Arab world to make a difference to bring about change in society, leadership and their countries as a whole.

World-changing events have happened because of online activism. Whether through sharing on Facebook, retweeting on Twitter or photography on Instagram, the social networking world has brought people with similar views together from all four corners of the world.

Through social networking we now have the opportunity to achieve this because it is so easy to reach large numbers of people quickly.

Despite the arguments from critics that online activism is armchair activism; it has been proven that Social Networking is just as an effective way of being an activist prior to the internet and social media especially as seen recently by the ALS bucket challenge which took the world by storm earlier this month. This is because it reaches so many people across the world and it brings people together for a common cause.

Social networking gives those with no resources a voice to express their activism. Moreover, it makes room for people from poorer socio-economic backgrounds to communicate with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and activists involved in causes they believe in by simply sending a tweet or leaving a comment on Facebook.

USE IT: Twitter has been one of the biggest platforms used for online activism. Photo: File Image

USE IT: Twitter has been one of the biggest platforms used for online activism. Photo: File Image

In recent months, online activism projects such as “The ALS Bucket Challenge”, “Feed the Deed” and “No make-up Selfies” for cancer has encouraged people to go out into their society and feed the poor or donate money to find a cure for Cancer or for ALS. These projects have gone viral and encouraged a large number of people to get involved and become pro-active in fighting poverty, cancer and other problems faced by both communities and the world. The ALS challenge raised millions of dollars and although some people argue that those who took part were doing it for the fun of it, it still brought about awareness and gave way to huge donations coming in from celebrities, the world’s richest and even the couch potato in your lounge.

Not to say that there aren’t negative aspects to online activism, but if used properly activism through the internet can achieve great heights. Together we can shape the world into the place that we would like it to be just with the click of a button.

Anne Frank said: “how wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world” and what better way to do so through the immediacy of social media.

“The Story of a South African Farm(er)…”

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FOR SALE: An example of two farmers selling sheep for Labollah. Photo: file

I heard a great story today. I must say, I could not stop laughing. It represents the true spirit of the typical Southern African living on the “Plaasie” (farm). It also reminded me of the Henry Charles Bosman story we learnt about in first year English – “The Withaak’s Shade.”

My brother was carefully driving, on his way to Vereniging, when a very interesting sight caught his eye. He was stuck in a bit a traffic, so he decided to take a look at the scenery. Low and behold there was a man, the typical, Afrikaans farmer, with the “beer-boep” and the sun-hat, off loading an entire herd of sheep into a make-shift pen on the side of the road. A few minutes later, there was a large sign made out of cardboard that read:

“Sheep for sale, Perfect for Labolla.”

The sign was written in THREE different languages: English, Afrikaans and Zulu.

So if you’re on your way to Vereniging tomorrow, don’t forget to give our friendly sheep farmer a hearty, South African wave.

 

The Graduate

It’s not all that easy to make it through ones degree.

After flogging my intellect three years running (I’m now in my fourth), I finally managed to achieve what I always thought to be the impossible (for me at least) – get a degree!

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PROUDLY WITSIE: Holding my BA degree

When does one say “enough?”

PAPER CUT: As journalists There is a fine line that should not be crossed.Photo: file

As someone who is currently being trained in the fields of English and journalism, a number of dilemmas have begun to arise within me.

It all began after I saw a number of “raw” images and footage from inside the Westgate Mall attack that was littered across social networking sites and news channels. Pictures depicting people who had been shot, bloodied up and killed began to disturb me deeply within. I started to question whether it is ethically correct for journalists and photographers to actually post such images of people at their worst and moreover people who have just been terribly traumatised. These photographs are scarring and damaging in many respects

On news networks I noticed journalists were hounding hostages and witnesses who had just been rescued or escaped a terrorist attack – that has, in-turn had a great effect on the whole African continent – South Africa included. This too me does not seem morally correct either.

 

But then again, to play the ‘devil’s advocate’ , how are journalists supposed to actual cover certain ‘breaking news’ events without interviewing newly released hostages or witnesses? How are journalists supposed to honestly portray the story to the world without showing these terrible yet revealing images despite their disturbing connotations?

During the run up to the 12th Anniversary of September 11th, I decided to take a look at how international news networks portrayed the attack from that day on YouTube

Many of the eerily unsettling images and interviews during the coverage on that day in 2001 moved me to tears so many years later. Without those images and those touching interviews – one in which a woman who had been in the towers cried on the shoulder of the reporter interviewing her – the international community would not have had a proper idea of the full effects it would have globally. These images inspired men and women from across the globe to donate blood, money, medical supplies and even fly-over forensic teams to help deal with the aftermath.

These images brought about a sense of pain and relief to those who had been exposed in this way and to the world.

The image of a man jumping from one of the top floors of the Twin-Towers became an iconic image of September 11th. But too his family and friends, is this image not the perfect example of betrayal of trust and ethics?

With this type of information, which too those who have been exposed is extremely sensitive, when should a line be drawn?

When one looks at the massacre of Rwanda in 1994 and the current struggles across Sudan, one questions how much of an impact this “raw” footage and images that depict death and violence have had in the world?

In Rwanda there was hardly an international intervention despite the brutal violence and slaughter being inflicting on scores innocent men women and children.

As stated in the film Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina tells the main journalist Jack that he is glad that he has shot this footage because it’s the “only chance that people might intervene.”

In response to this Jack asks, “If no one intervenes, is it still a good thing to show?”

This epitomises the whole dilemma perfectly. If these images will not make a profound difference to a trying situation, should they still be shown and exposed to not only the public but to the global community?

This bridge is an extremely complex and difficult one to cross. As a future journalist, I feel that it is important for us not to sensationalize these images and not become caught up in the morbid curiosity aspect.

We must respect this form of the media and treat it with real caution and care, because we do not know who and what it may affect in the present and the future.

 

Journalism with Joe Thloloe

The group listened closely as he told us to be meticulous.

Joe Tholoe stood straight and proud as he addressed the Journalism Honours class of 2014. The 70-year-old veteran journalist and anti-Apartheid activist advised us on “how to get it right” when telling our stories as journalists.

“You have to be meticulous, as meticulous as aircraft pilots! As meticulous as accountants,” he said.

He handed out the booklets, inside, the South African Press Code. Over 1000 different media outlets subscribe to this code and “if you want to get it right,” we must too.

The Drum room brings back memories for Tholoe. He was an English teacher in Soweto when he was invited to join the Drum team. He reminisced about his time there, going through each picture that hangs on the wall. He wanted to become a journalist to tell the story of the “shanty towns” of his childhood in Orlando.

“Ugly, muddy and smelly,” he described.

But his life in Orlando had never been reflected by anything he had read about his home written during the Apartheid struggle.

“I wanted them [the oppressors] to understand that we have human feelings. We laugh, we cry, we are human.”

Tholoe went on to explain that “values are the building block” behind being a good and ethical journalist. What we do is a result of our values.

He implored us to fight for what we believe in as journalists. But at the same time we are serving society.

He read out to us from the Press Council booklet, “press exists to serve society”. We followed closely.

He implored us to give citizens the information to help them decide about important issues of the day. He suggested that it is their values and beliefs that give them the insight to decide on what is important, but it is up to us as journalists to supply the information.

In a final few words, Tholoe allowed the class to ask him questions. He answered by telling us about being “ombudsman”, his time at SABC and eTV and the way in which the “Ombudsman” is elected.

He closed his address to the class by instructing us to have “patience, patience, patience” if we are to grow into good journalists.

The Life and Times of a Rookie Journalist

As the turn style moves, the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts toward the second floor and the white washed walls sparkle in the early morning sunlight.

I run toward the glass door yelling “hold the elevator” or “wait for me!” The doors have closed. I’ve mistimed things again and there is 10 minutes until my fate is decided – news conference.

This is how my day has begun, every morning for the last 3 months.

WAM – the Wits University Art Museum on University Corner holds the 20 floors filled with arts, drama, culture and journalism. There is something novel about this place. It is not your typical university building. Blue hair, nose rings, rock star t-shirts, tall, short, guitars, musicians, students with cameras around their necks or notepads in their hands – rushing to cover a breaking story. They are all around me, they surround me, and they have now become a part of me.

This is the life I have chosen, the degree that could make or break me. I am a journalist.

As the adrenaline pumps through my veins, my feet carry me onto Main Campus. I have to find the source of all this – I have to change things, make them better.

“It’s my job” I repeat to myself over and over again. Concerns fill me up as I walk towards her – what if I mess this up? What if I misquote her? What if she doesn’t want to talk to me?

What if…What if…What if…

In a heartbeat the interview is done. I have what I need. I’m on my way back to the tenth floor ready to write this story. Something refreshing – something different, I pray I can get it down on paper. I hope once it is done they will not rip it apart…

The silver doors shut as I approach the button glowing blue. I’ve missed the elevator again. Another ten more minutes until it approaches. The wait will not abate me although this wait may shake me.

It’s arrived; I climb inside, classical music… I wish we could shoot it.But there are bigger things pressing on my chest.

A story is there and it could cause despair but I know if I do it right, I may be able to save someone’s life.

It hits me as we travel upward, the bulb is flashing on – John Grogan’s words of wisdom, those which inspire me to be – “In the English Language, it all comes down to this: Twenty-six letters, when combined correctly, can create magic. Twenty-six letters form the foundations of a free, informed society.”