Thursday

Regional Siblings!

Sometimes I feel like wearing my mokorotlo when going out. "If by any chance I walk past a Mosotho visiting Paris," I reason with myself, "I want them to recognise me." Hogwash. They recognise me without the mokorotlo!

During one of the showings of Sarafina here in Paris, I was beckoned by a couple in the theatre. They turned out to be from Lesotho. When I asked how they'd known I was from Lesotho or even just southern Africa, they smiled and said, "We knew." How?

Last weekend, on the occassion of "ten years without Apartheid," the Trocadero, right in front of the Eiffel Tower, was occupied by South Africans. I went over for the afternoon. There were dancers, stilt-walkers, handicrafts salespeople, and a Ndebele or Tembu lady painting a wall. Two people instinctively smiled at me and made it obvious that they knew.

It is almost as if we were one big family, regional siblings, with some sort of trait or feature that distinguishes us from others. I personally must be unaware of something, because I couldn't recognise a southern African from among many people, even if it were to save my life. But that's precisely how the mokorotlo idea was born.

Saturday

Breast sight = $930,000!

NB: You may want to read this 7 September 2004 post first.
Janet Jackson's breast peek will cost CBS $930,000. That's the merciless fine imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on those CBS stations that aired the now famous peek-a-boob. As if CBS didn't have enough on their hands.
'The US Constitution is generous in its protection of free expression, but it is not a licence to thrill,' said FCC chairman Michael Powell. 'The context of the half-time show leads us to conclude that the breast-baring finale was intended.'
[ Source... ]
A little excessive for a breast on television, I seem to think. It is strange, nevertheless, that the tongue-kisses of the Madonna-Spears-Aguilera trio, also on-stage and on the air, have not raised a quarter of the stink the Jackson-Timberlake peek-a-boob has. Not as many condemnations as the duo, and certainly no fines. Is it considered better by the FCC, then, for America's children to ogle at three women tongue-kissing than to ogle at a woman's breast? Here, I've finally found someone who fully agrees with me:
What I don't understand is that Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Madonna can make out at an awards show, and there is no fine for showing this on the airwaves. You have people stripping down to nothing on prime time television (see Survivor), people showing off their bare butts (see N.Y.P.D. Blue), sexual innuendoes being said all over the TV dial, yet one woman's breast is the cause of moral decay in American society. Go figure.

(I realize that most TVs do not have dials anymore, but you get my point.)
[ Source... ]
I've asked the question before: is this because of the Jackson name, or because of the colour of the breast? It is disturbing to see the chasm that lies between reactions to the two incidents. Conditions concerning the type of audience and the age-groups exposed were similar, although I feel it is likely that there were more children watching music awards (woman to woman tongue kiss) than the Super Bowl (exposed breast).
Somebody says, Sadly, the MTV Video Music Awards didn't feature a Madonna, Spears and Aguilera snog-fest. Someone else adds, "It was an impressive spectacle," the Times said. "But it was hard not to be reminded that 19 years ago Madonna could cause this much fuss all by herself." Television channels didn't seem to mind, though, replaying the kissing footage throughout the morning.
Susan says, "Couldn't say for sure, but I don't doubt that it would be more politically incorrect to pan a three-girl kiss in the midst of these times of accepting open homosexuality. Anything said against the act could be misconstrued as being against lesbianism rather than the sexual display going beyond good taste in ANY gender format.
The black/white interracial scenario with Timberlake/Jackson, has to a certain degree become acceptable finally, and so the focus is more on the act rather than the individuals, and can then more safely be censored."
[ Source... ]

Aven says, "Basically, I'd assume that it's because, to many people, a naked breast is unacceptable on "family" television while a kiss is acceptable. The identity of the various participants is a secondary issue. A woman and a man kissing (open-mouth or not) on "family" tv isn't a problem, so why should two (or three) women kissing be? While a naked breast is seen as a problem, whether it is a man or a woman who causes that breast to become bare.
It's all about the arbitrary standards of "sexuality" -- nakedness is automatically condemned, while graphically sexual actions, movements, and lyrics are acceptable (see MTV, as you said). Within that set of standards, the reactions are predicable."
[ Source... ]

Wednesday

Police Brutality

Lesotho police forces again have turned an operation against Maseru street vendors into a violent event, physically attacking the vendors and an investigating journalist. Also in July last year, a similar police action turned violent and several vendors and two journalists sustained grievous bodily injuries.
[ Read on... ]

Monday

Sotho / Zulu violence

One of my long-standing theories is that more often than not, sworn enemies will come together to fight a common foe. I thought I'd long concluded that it was the case in Africa, where internal squabbles died off as nations fought colonialism. My theory leads me to believe that if we were suddenly attacked by little, green men wielding powerful laser guns, we would come together as earthlings? to defend our planet. It has been proven by the present situation in Iraq, where local groups have joined forces against the United States and its allies. But it has also been disproved by a myriad of other situations today and in the past. There are peoples who, for nothing in the world or even beyond, are willing to bury the hatchet. Why not? Please shrug, and turn your mouth into a downfacing "C". Blacks in southern Africa fought against apartheid long enough to have learnt the benefits of pulling together. Please place your index finger on your lower eye-lid and gently pull down. Why? Because
A weekend of violence between isiZulu- and seSotho-speaking residents in a Howick informal settlement escalated into a full-blown war on Sunday night, as dozens of houses and shacks were razed to the ground by arsonists in revenge attacks.

At least seven isiZulu-speaking residents were admitted to hospital on Saturday. Five of them were treated and discharged by Sunday after suffering serious injuries inflicted with sticks and sharp objects. [ Source... ]
There goes my theory. Consider the Balkans, look at Rwanda and Burundi. When are those little, green men coming? I'm tempted to loosely quote Quincy Jones, as I often do, who in turn quoted Marlon Brando as having said something like, "If we all had the same religion, the same colour, the same nationality and the same culture, the right-handed ones would start killing the left-handed ones." One can almost understand killings explained away through religion, or land-grabbing, or even race. But, language? Culture? What are those people in Howick, Kwazulu, fighting about? Is it a carry-over from the Lifaqane?
Mfecane (isiZulu), also known as the Difaqane or Lifaqane (Sesotho), is an African expression used about chaos and disturbances. It probably means something like "the Crushing", and originates from the events leading to the rise to power of chief Shaka. This Zulu chief conquered the Nguni peoples between the Tugela and Pongola rivers in the beginning of the 19th century, and created a militaristic kingdom. [ Source... ]

Sunday

Lesotho Ski Experience

An article that appeared in The Globe and Mail of 18 September 2004 says, "STEPHANIE NOLEN heads into Lesotho's Maluti mountains and finds a distinctly African ski experience: The lodge is unfinished, the snow sparse and the chair lift is a work in progress. But she soon is won over by the novelty of schussing the southern slopes -- not to mention the hot-buttered rum."
[ Read on... ]

Greg Alder in Lesotho

Greg Alder is doing some teaching in T'soeneng*, Lesotho. He keeps a log that tells it all, or almost all, but is unfortunately not regular. Greg writes well and truthfully, as far as I can tell. His blog is informative and worth reading.
* There are no permanent links. Read "He Knows How to Drive" of 17 July 2004. He explains the meaning of the village's name in the comments section.

Re: Thuto

On Tuesday, 3 February 2004 I said, with minor differences, that "We can go ahead and boast to the world that we have pretty good education, despite the odds, because we do, thanks to ntate Moshoeshoe I. What did he do? He welcomed Casalis and his pals and told them to go ahead and teach his people "the ways of the white man," or something to that effect. They translated the Bible into Sesotho, taught Basotho how to scribble on slate to represent their language, printed books, and so on. Later, other missionaries would come over to help the original ones, and Lesotho was off as one of the busiest southern African educational hubs. The protestants worked out of Morija, the catholics out of Roma.

Our government tells us that it, the government, is continuing and will continue that tradition. I hope they're not forcing our children to hate their mother tongue! The result of doing so can be beneficial in many ways, but, hey, I write poetry in English and am conspicuously unable to do so in Sesotho. I don't like that a whole lot and I think it's a shame. There must be some sort of compromise between the two languages. I also hope that children are not forced to say the Lord's Prayer every morning. I'm a Christian who believes in God and in Jesus Christ. But I respect those who believe, well, in God and in the teachings of another figure, Buddha, the prophet Mohamed, Bahá'u'lláh, or another. I imagine myself, a Christian, having to say another faith's prayer every morning. The effect of that would be to make me wary of the religion whose rites I'm being forced to observe, but also to make me hate school. School is for education, the church is for religion, the home is for both those things and more. Full stop. If children are still being forced to say the Lord's Prayer, then the government must seriously consider stopping the practice immediately, and starting the hunt for an alternative. Lesotho is not a theocracy. It is a democracy. And all, all of its citizens must be made to feel at home and free to be who they are and to worship in their own way. The government of Lesotho says,
Through the provision of quality primary education, Lesotho is intent on improving the low level of skills of persons entering the workforce each year. The current primary school curriculum is being revised and reviewed and practical orientation in the teaching of core subjects is encouraged. Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 13, with fee elimination to be implemented in phases, starting with Standard One at the beginning of school terms in 2000. The government also intends to pilot a scholarship programme for children from needy families.
How well is that being adhered to? What phase have we reached? I think it was a marvellous thing to undertake in the first place. It will in the long run eliminate the fiduciary advantage some Basotho had over others from birth to death. It will tend to give us a semblance of an equal footing, so that the best person moves forward in life, instead of it being only the rich one. So, how well is that being adhered to?

I can't sign off without saying, in very clear terms, that I love my people, my country and my language, and that I'm a firm believer in the teachings of Jesus Christ. But what we must not forget is that a citizen of Chritian belief or Islamic belief, or a citizen of another religion, probably has the same convictions about his or her religious beliefs as the ones I declare. And what are we to do, then? Disregard that fact, just because we may be in the majority? No. No way. Not today. Lesotho is a democracy, not a theocracy. And we're all pulling this load together toward a common, national goal of No Hunger, No Poverty, No AIDS, No Discrimination."

Saturday

AIDS and us

AIDS has been kicking our butts so long that when there's news about it we tend not to notice too much. It's like telling Eskimoes it's gonna snow. Except that Eskimoes can't really do anything about it snowing, whereas we can do lots about the AIDS/HIV virus. It's time to start noticing and acknowledging victories or other events happening around the illness.

Lesotho and Uganda have been singled out by the UN's AIDS envoy as good AIDS fighters. "In particular Uganda and Lesotho were praised for a 'remarkable' dedication" to removing obstacles to the fight against the pandemic. [ Read on... ]

Friday

Re:Sita's Fire Still Burns: Distorted Sex Ratios and the 'Male Tilt' in Asia

I've been wanting to comment on my friend Conrad Barwa's post, Sita's Fire Still Burns: Distorted Sex Ratios and the 'Male Tilt' in Asia, since he and I discussed it a few weeks ago. What pushed me into action last night was a program I saw on the French TV channel, France 2. It was about the acid-throwing male f**** in Bangladesh.

I've read the post many times, and must say that it is dangerously easy for one to agree with most of it. It is well-written and well-documented. In the end I took off some of my comments that only concurred but did not bring in anything new, or offer a different take. I'd like to thank Conrad for allowing me to "blog" on his thoughts, and Jonathan for having The Head Heeb, where Conrad's article appeared, and where their tandem is a delight to read, for the stuff they drop in the comments section is more than comments. Imagine the actual posts. Below is the entirety of the post, with my comments. Please visit the original post in order to read the many reactions that ensued. Here it is:


"A commentary piece in The Christian Science Monitor examines a new report on some of the implications of the increasing imbalance in sex-ratios in many Asian countries; particularly India and China; having said this I am somewhat irked by the slightly sensationalist tone and take by the"not improved all that much"

However, the sex ratio for children up to six years has slipped from 945 females per 1,000 males in 1991 to just 927 females 10 years later, indicating that despite government measures, such as a ban on sex determination tests, female foeticide is still widely prevalent. Many girls are also killed in infancy.
According to recent research, 90% of the estimated 3.5m abortions in India each year are to eliminate girls.

Even more alarmingly, the usual assumptions that urbanisation and rising incomes would neutralise or counter-act tendencies towards such imbalances have not been borne true:

Until now, it was believed that the bias against girls was especially acute in the countryside, where the high child mortality rate, combined with the prestige gained from having a male child, the need for wage earners and the prohibitive cost of marrying a daughter heavily tilted the scales in favour of sons.
But the census has come up with a startling statistic - the sex ratio in the national capital region of Delhi has plummeted to just 865 girls to 1,000 boys, well below the national average. In one district in Delhi, it has dropped below 800.

Having said this some of the concern over this phenomenon seems to be quite male-centric:

The book, "Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population," (MIT Press), by Valerie Hudson and Andrea Den Boer, connects the dots of a huge demographic trend that carries international implications. ("Bare branches" comes from a Chinese phrase for adult offspring who don't bear children, like empty fruit trees.)
Policymakers should take note: China, India, and other nations that can't stop this practice might see great social upheavals, such as mass migration of young males or the widespread kidnapping of women.
"The security logic of high sex-ratio societies predisposes nations to see some utility in interstate conflict," the authors write.

I would have thought that the de facto purging of so many female foetuses and/or children would and should have been a great matter of concern in its own right; instead of worrying about whether it might impinge on mens' ability to find wives or on some aspect of social order, but obviously for some this isn't necessarily a primary concern in itself. Prescient in predicting and exploring the causes as well as difficulties in remedying this imbalance, was the “International Symposium on Issues Related to Sex Preference for Children in the Rapidly Changing Demographic Dynamics in Asia" held in Seoul, South Korea, in November 1994. It was sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Government of the Republic of Korea, and hosted by the Korean Institute of Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA). Its collation of key observations and policy recommendations are even more relevant and pressing today, that ten years ago and it is sobering to think how little progress seems to have been made in achieving macro-social goals in this regard. Amongst the more pertinent observations, it was noted that:

Conrad says: I would have thought that the de facto purging of so many female foetuses and/or children would and should have been a great matter of concern in its own right; instead of worrying about whether it might impinge on mens' ability to find wives or on some aspect of social order, but obviously for some this isn’t necessarily a primary concern in itself.

Rethabile says: You would have thought right. Many of the pundits I've read look not at the crime, but at its consequences. They do not say, "Look at that man raping that girl. It is wrong." They say, instead, "Look at that girl being raped by that man. What's she gonna do if she falls pregnant?"

Observation 7: Public concern about the "missing girl" problem in Asia focuses on the plight of the men who will be unable to find brides 20 years hence. This focus itself is male-oriented and reflects high valuation of males and disregard of the needs of females. Meanwhile, the fate of the abandoned, aborted, murdered, or maltreated girls is barely seen as a problem

One would like to think that things have changed, but sometimes can't wondering if they haven't; with the focus on difficulties for male bride-seekers and potential for social unrest that have emerged as the latest concerns for tackling this issue. This is arguably linked to two other factors noted by the symposium; the first being that family planning policies might exacerbate such gender imbalances in the population, by increasing the pressure to abort female foetuses for parents desiring smaller families and by state led programmes which focus obsessively on reducing the number of children per women in a quantitative fashion, where "if a country's population program is almost solely concentrated on reducing the number of births, this distorts the sex ratio at birth, where son preference is great".

There was also the worry that affluence, education, economic development and increased knowledge may not by themselves reduce this disparity and animus against the girl-child; which seems to not "have been misplaced "

And there's an even greater tragedy that lies hidden in those numbers 945 and 927. Where would you say the steepest declines in CSR have been? Among illiterate tribals lost in the wilds of a backward state like Bihar? Wrong again. The more backward states have seen relatively mild falls in their CSR. No, the steepest declines have happened in some of the most prosperous corners of this great country: Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi and Bombay. Some areas of our richest states now have a CSR lower than 800. Kurukshetra in Haryana (770, drop of 98 since 1991), Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab (754, drop of 120) and Mahesana in Gujarat (798, drop of 101) are typical.
The quote above says: And there's an even greater tragedy that lies hidden in those numbers 945 and 927.

Rethabile says: It is a great tragedy that there are declines in CSR due to non-natural causes. I agree. But why is it a greater tragedy for it not to be more pronounced "among illiterate tribals?" Why is it a greater tragedy when "the steepest declines have happened in some of the most prosperous corners" of the country? The writer is probably trying to make the point that rich folks have the means to kill before the fact, and poorer folks to ill-treat after the fact. But still, why is that more of a tragedy? I have no qualms with the reasong but with the choice of words.

Though again these are qualified by significant regional variations, indeed, a cursory look at the differences in "sex ratios by district in India " and comparing it with another crude indicator of Human Development and Gender Equity, in this case Female Literacy; point towards a large geo-social divide that is opening up "within the country " With some exceptions, aggregating these results at the state level, further reinforce that the main divide is between the North and the South; the northern Hindi-speaking states in particular " suffering from this problem " much more than the Southern states (though it should be noted that some states such as Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat have highly differentiated results within their own "border between different districts" ). This is also something that was captured at the international level by the Symposium held by the UNFPA and KIHASSA in 1994, as some Asian countries such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand didn't seem to suffer from the same persistent demographic gender imbalances and didn't reflect the same societal preference for male children. One can then question to what degree conventionally used social and economic indices, commonly found in reports by international development organisations and NGOs, are the driving factor behind such preferences; as they don't seem to be able to fully explain both intra-state and regional differences all that well.

In particular, as some researchers have argued using data from the WDR and World Bank; countries with highly disparate social and economic indicators can exhibit a similarly high level of bias towards male children and the phenomenon of 'missing girls'. Two such countries often taken as comparisons in this regard are India and South Korea which have very different per capita incomes $2,114 (at PPP) for India and $14,637 for South Korea, the former being largely a rural society with only 28% of its society urbanised and the latter a highly industrialised one with 81% of its population living in cities. Total Fertility Rates also vary with the former at 3.2 and the latter at 1.6 (well below the accepted replacement level for the population) and female illiteracy rates are expectedly high in India (57%) and low in South Korea (4%) with the gaps in IMRs indicating a similar developmental difference being 70 in India and only 9 in South Korea. It is instructive to see, however, that despite these large differences in the socio-economic composition of their societies similar discriminatory outcomes in terms of adverse sex ratios can still occur. The word 'discrimination' in this application covers a wide range of ways in which different sexes are treated differently in reproductive terms: pre-conception by continuing childbearing until the desired number of sons is reached and stopping after that (reflected by decisions to use contraception or have another child, contingent on the sex composition of the children already born); during pregnancy, through sex-selective abortion (as the usual biological range is around 105-6 boys for every 100 girls born) and at birth through selective infanticide (hard to distinguish from sex-selective abortion as cases are unlikely to be reported as births); and finally during early childhood, through neglect and other mechanisms, reflected in the higher mortality of girls than boys during infancy and early childhood.

Obviously, the nature of the discrimination will depend on the means available as well as the existing pressures in society to access them. Normally one would expect postnatal forms of discrimination to be used by people without access to physical or financial sex-selective technology and prenatal methods to be used by those who have such access. South Korea today shows one of the highest levels of sex-selective abortions, due to the easy access to such technology; whereas in India, the bulk of gender discrimination comes after child-birth rather than before. However, the availability of sex-selective technology may actually increase net proportions of girls 'missing' rather than simply substitute for lower-technology methods, by making it easier to discriminate against girl-children in this fashion; it seems to be the case in South Korea and China at least, as sex ratios at birth started rising rapidly around 1985, when such technology became easily available and widespread – interestingly this date does not correspond with the one-child policy of China which began at the end of 1979. Fertility decline and the availability of sex-selective technology both work together in certain contexts to raise levels of such discrimination.

However, given the regional and intra-state variations in juvenile sex ratios (JSRs) and the fact that while some countries like South Korea and India have shown rising JSRs, others mostly in South East Asia have not displayed such a trend; there clearly has to be something other than just declining fertility ratios and the availability of new technology that motivates the source of gender bias. Fertility decline can act in co-ordination with existing male-preference in reproduction, as the case of Korea shows where between 1959 to 1991 the ideal number of children declined from five to two and the ideal number of sons fell from three to 1.2. While the proportion of sons desired remained constant, the number of daughters that could be accommodated within these ideal family sizes dropped sharply, from an average of two to 0.8 per couple. In fact, the room for 'tolerating' daughters could have been said to have dropped even more sharply, because the most crucial requirement was to have at least one surviving son. Having two instead of three sons was far easier for couples in the past to accept, than it is for couples in the present to accept having no sons instead of one son. Thus the consequences of not meeting the full ideal number of sons are far more drastic when fertility declines – putting couples today under much more pressure to avoid having daughters.

Rethabile says: There is underlying and non-foreground gender discrimination in Lesotho. I do not know of any infanticide related to it. But it it is widespread and is evident in the way boys and girls are named. First-born girls mostly have negative names: Consolation (Mat'seliso), Surprises (Limakatso), Tear (Mookho), and others, while first-born boys boast names like: Give thanks (Tumisang or Lebohang), Luck (Lehlohonolo), Be happy (Thabang) and others. There are girls with the nicer forenames, but they are usually not first-born, as are those boys with the "negative" names.

Structural Factors: The impact of Culture and Kinship Systems:

The one thing that does emerge as an underlying theme between nations and regions such as northern India, China and South Korea are the commonalties in their kinship systems which tends towards the rigidly patrilineal. Many studies of patriarchy refer to this as part of the explanation for the endurance of male-preference in children, but in terms of kinship systems it is usually reduced to certain elements in family structure; revolving around the attributes of patriarchy and patrilineality. Patrilineality includes passing on the main productive assets through the male line, while women may be given some goods in the form of dowry or an inheritance; this constrains women's ability to sustain their economic independence without being attached to a man. Patrilocality involves, a couple residing at the man's home, which goes hand in hand with inheritance – especially in agrarian peasant societies where land is the main productive asset that is inherited. The problem is that this description would fit many societies around the world and doesn't fully capture why son-preference is more strongly rooted in some regions than others. Part of the answer to this lies in the extent of flexibility in the internal logic of patrilineal kinship. In much of peasant Europe, for example, there was considerable flexibility in the system. Women could inherit land if their parents had no sons, and the daughter and her husbands would take over the property. The household was reproduced – though not through the father's lineage and still took place with a context where power relations were still dominated by men. In north-western India and South Korea, as well as parts of China; the patrilineal system is much more rigid. For example, it would be extremely rare for a daughter to inherit land; a man without sons might adopt from among the man's male kin, or take another wife as a concubine. The driving motivation is to continue the family line by whatever means possible. Belonging to a lineage confers membership of a society, so enormous importance is placed on the maintenance of genealogies, carefully recording lineage ties, between mend for generations on end.

Conrad says: A man without sons might adopt from among the man's male kin, or take another wife as a concubine. The driving motivation is to continue the family line by whatever means possible

Rethabile says: God forbid that a man should lack a son! In Lesotho the couple will just keep trying until the boy arrives, or until the family grows even beyond the usually meagre means. The list of girls in such a case would then have names like: We're shocked (Remaketse), Expectation (Tebello), They aren't here (Halieo), and so on.

In many parts of India, particularly the north-west, the traditional social organisation, prevailing in the early decades of this century (and in many cases today) was one in which clans had their territories. Villages had their dominant clan (sometimes more than one), to which the majority of men belonged. These clans maintained strict exogamy, so wives may be brought in from elsewhere. A strong sense of clanship pervaded these villages, making men from other clans feel like interlopers. A man who would live as a member of his wife's home would be subject not only to humiliation, but also to the threat posed by other villages who would resent his usurping clan property. Thus, only men were seen to constitute the social order, and women were the means by which they could reproduce themselves. Women are the biological reproducers, but it is through her father that a child acquires social identity and is incorporated into the social order. Since only boys remain in the lineage, the significant social reproduction is that by the father of the son. In China and South Korea, this can be seen in an ancestor worship hall, where one can see literally each generation of men and the generations of men to whom they gave rise; women are recorded if at all only in the capacities of the wives of men who rise to succeeding generations of men.

Conrad says: Women are the biological reproducers, but it is through her father that a child acquires social identity and is incorporated into the social order. Since only boys remain in the lineage, the significant social reproduction is that by the father of the son.

Rethabile says: That is another similarity between India and China and Lesotho. In Lesotho, moreover, a son will take care of his parents, but not usually of his spouse's parents. The latter will by right be taken care of by their son, the spouse's brother. Women, in such matters, have zero influence and zero involvement.

Men are the fixed points in this social order, and women are the moving points because lineages are strictly exogamous. When women marry they leave their home and their lineage, to be absorbed into their husband's lineage. Neither in their father's nor their husband's lineage can a woman ever aspire to the central position which is the simple birthright of any male born into the lineage. When she marries, a woman is perceived to have been permanently exported from the family: her 'slot' in the household ceases to exist, and a new 'slot' is created for incoming brides. In the rare cases when women do return, they and their parents have to struggle to make it work, because other members of the village resist the incursion on their property rights. This is illustrated by the following case study, taken from Martha Alter Chen's in-depth research into the problems of rural women in India:

Lakshmi {name changed} had serious problems in her husband's home and returned to her own home. In another rare feat, she succeeded in bringing her infant son with her. Her widowed father was keen to protect his daughter, but his two sons disapproved of this and separated from his household, leaving him with a small share of the land for his own subsistence. He lived with his daughter and her baby. She worked very hard all day, cultivating the land and keeping cattle to make ends meet. A very energetic woman, she seemed never to rest from her work, always striding from one task to another. Her father looked after the child during the day.
Her neighbours, who were mostly her own relatives, were not obstructive to her but never included her in their circle. They treated her with some derision. What protected her was the fact that she worked so hard (no one could accuse her of being a financial burden), her loud and confident manner and readiness to defend herself and her child if challenged, and above all, her father's commitment to protecting her. By the time her father died her son had grown and found a job, so his mother could have her son's protection.

This is in sharp contrast to the bilateral kinship systems of south-east Asia, in which relationships through both male and the female line are recognised and actively used. Similarly in Southern India, women are freer, to maintain mutually supportive relationships with their parents even after marriage, which makes for lower son preference by reducing the difference between the value of a daughter and that of a son. This is reflected in the difference in JSRs shown in the last two decennial censuses in India. The less rigid construction of gender in the kinship systems in South India also makes it easier for women to act as independent legal and social entities. This is shown in some of the case studies carried out by ethnographers in the region, this one as part of a village survey project by Hyderabad University in Karnataka:

Lakshamma is the eldest of five sisters, they did not have a brother. When Laskhamma's parents died leaving three sisters still unmarried, she moved back to her parents' village with her husband. She sold some of her parents' land to pay for her sister's marriages, and divided the rest between the sisters. When her second sister left her alcoholic husband and came back to her parents' village, she used some of her share of the property to set up a teashop near the village bus stop. This teashop has a flourishing business, and the sister has raised her daughter and son well, sending them to school and seeing to it that they studied hard.
The village as a whole was supportive of these women's actions, treating these women with respect and commending the eldest sister for her even-handed division of the property. Neighbouring households, who had know these children from childhood were especially supportive.

Similar regional differences can be seen in China, where some of the non-Han minorities with less rigidly patrilineal kinship systems show little or no son preference. The Tibetans for example, have a relatively balanced JSR and a kinship system in which females are not systematically marginialised. Ethnic minorities in Yunnan, sharing cultural patterns with bordering societies of Burma and Thailand also show less strong son preference, as do the Islamic groups in Western China. Once women are left out of the social order, they become dispensable essentially because they count for little as individuals. When stresses arise for the household, women are the ones who have to yield, to protect men from want. This is not to say that women are not valued in the household; they have value as vessels for reproduction and for their labour contribution to the household.

Nor is there any simple relationship between the value of an adult woman as compared with that of a girl child. In societies in which daughters are totally incorporated into the husband's household, the value of daughters to their parents can remain low, although adult women are very valuable to their husband's families. If women's earnings rise, this is then seen to benefit their husband's families, not their parents. This creates a gap between female children and women, in the way in which they are affected by recent changes in living conditions. For example, in all three settings adult women's life expectancy has been rising steadily relative to that of men. Adult women have benefited from improvements in living conditions and social development, including education, better opportunities for employment and health care. At the same time, levels of excess female child mortality have been rising, as parents seek to ensure having sons.

A daughter's appropriate place is in her father's home only until she marries. Moreover, it is the norm for all girls to marry; there is very little scope for a grown woman to find a socially acceptable role as a resident of her family of birth, except as a visitor. Parents are under much more social pressure to ensure that their daughters marry, as evidenced by the negligible proportions of women never married in their thirties in the census. The fate of daughters is to leave and make way for incoming daughters-in-law. What is important to note is the difference between not just 'traditional patriachical' and 'modern gender-neutral' societies (assuming the latter do exist) but how patriarchal societies themselves can differ with widely divergent results for women. In contrast to the more rigid patrilineal and patrilocal societies found in northern India and parts of China; in many parts of rural Europe, it was completely acceptable, and even the norm, for grown daughters to remain single for many years and look after their parents or work on someone else's farm. The growth of personal choice and the absence of heavy parental pressure for marriage to preserve wider kinship ties; meant that any shortage of suitable matches would be more of a personal problem for individuals rather than an intolerable situation for the parents to seek to avoid.

One other aspect which is frequently overlooked is the change in women's status over the life-cycle. As a young bride and young mother, a woman has little intrinsic source of standing other than as the mother of future generations of men of that lineage, as pointed out above. But in later stages of the life-cycle, women's power and autonomy in the household rise, and women gain fuller access to the household's resources. Margery Wolf argues that in their old age, Chinese women wield the main authority in the household, whole old men are relatively marginalised. From anecdotal and village studies in northern India, there does seem to be some evidence for this as well. Old men in rural parts of Uttar Pradesh and along the Gangetic belt tend to withdraw from household affairs and become increasingly reticent figures, while their wives become the lynchpins of the home, managing their sons, their daughters-in-law and grandchildren. However, this rise in women's' autonomy, such that it is, depends crucially on the support of having grown up sons. Without this pillar, women can be very vulnerable – and this is a key factor in establishing son-preference amongst mothers. There are real incentives as well as social pressures that encourage a mother to make sure that her sons have powerful emotional attachments to the mother, becoming her firm supporters as they themselves grown in household stature. Women are careful to bind their sons to themselves through subtle webs of solicitousness and emotional manipulation. This has been noted by researchers who have examined such family relationships as Monica Das Gupta observes:

Conrad says: A woman has little intrinsic source of standing other than as the mother of future generations of men of that lineage.

Rethabile says: This is true as far as women are concerned in Lesotho. It is evidenced by the forename change they undergo at the birth of their first son. A young maiden named Palesa (flower), for example, will suddenly become 'MaThabo (mother of Thabo) if her son's forename is Thabo. From then on, very few people will ever refer to her as Palesa. She exists through and because of her son. In my clan or totem, the Bakhatla (or Bakgatla), the mother gets the name of the first child, boy or girl. But I believe we're the only Lesotho-based clan that does so.

The woman is careful to bind her sons to herself through various measures. She can be solicitous of their needs, the gentle nurturer who cooks food they like. She can allow her sons to see how she suffers at the hands of her in-laws and even her husband. She can allow them to see how hard she works. She can be careful to communicate that all her sacrifices will be rewarded if her sons have successful lives, while also subtly communicating that she expects unquestioning loyalty from them in compensation for her sacrifices.

Very similar strategies were noted by Wolf for forming a strong mother-son bond in China. This is also a powerful motivation for marginalising the son's bride, to ensure that the son's loyalties are to the mother above all. Unfortunately, the successful self-assertion of women in such a kinship system is at the expense of younger women, which helps perpetuate the cycle of female subordination. One difference in the kinship system of South Korea compared with China and northern India, makes for a more pressing need in South Korea to have a son's of one's own. In both north-western India and China, sons are in principle equal, though the eldest son is viewed as the senior and therefore second in authority only to the father. They are expected to inherit equally. The principle of equality of brothers introduces an element of flexibility, in that it is possible for those without sons to be sustained in this life and the afterlife by their brothers' sons. If brothers co-reside, as is the ideal in the joint family system, such maintenance takes place with little need for adjustment within the family. Obviously it is far less preferred to be supported by brothers' sons, because the ties are more easily ruptured than with one's own son, but nevertheless the possibility exists. By contrast in South Korea brothers are not interchangeable. The custom is that the eldest brother inherits the largest share of the property and is responsible for taking care of the parents and ancestors. Therefore in each generation brothers separate from each other and form a new branch of the lineage. To receive support in this life (and the afterlife), one has to have one's own son; a brother's son will not do. This inflexibility heightens the urgency of having a son of one's own; without this, one is destined to be a lost soul forever. This may help explain why son preference has remained very strong despite the extensive social changes in the country.

The system does tend to be rigidly formal, requiring that parents be supported by the eldest son, even if they might be more comfortable with another son. It is striking how much the eldest sons continue to be the main support for their parents - despite the socio-economic transformations of the country, and residential mobility as sons go to work in other cities - of those supported by children, over half received support from the eldest son, while only 2% received support from daughters. This places an additional source of pressure on parents to have a son.

Conrad says: Of those supported by children, over half received support from the eldest son, while only 2% received support from daughters. This places an additional source of pressure on parents to have a son.

Rethabile says: Yes it does, indeed. In the countries we're considering, not many people have the means, or deem it wise, to contribute toward old-age pension. It happens in rural areas but also in places where "socio-economic transformations" have taken place. Having many children, especially sons, therefore becomes a sort of insurance against abject poverty and neglect in old age. What such societies fail to realise, however, is that the enourmous strength and resources spent on having and raising a large family could, instead, have amply given the parents a more than comfortable pension in old age. Conrad discusses the issue of old-age support more extensively below.

Structural Factors: The Economic Angle:

It is commonly argued that parents prefer sons because their perceived net value is higher than that of daughters. The argument is that sons can help on the family farm, and provide old age support to their parents – while daughters have much less to offer and can even be a major economic drain if their marriage expenses are high. These are the terms in which discrimination against daughters has typically been explained, at least in India and China. In India, discussion has focused especially on the high costs of dowry, while also noting the low levels of female labour force participation, the harsh realities of poverty, and the need for old age support. I am more interested in last three factors and want to look at them in some more detail.

The question of old age support is a good example of how kinship systems create economic incentives for son preference. Explanations place emphasis on the fact that sons can provide old age support. It is certainly true that in China, South Korea and India, sons do provide old age support. The majority of the old live with married children, and these are overwhelmingly sons. This would seem to be and important economic reason for wanting to have sons. Cross-sectional data surveys carried out by sociologists looking at South Korea, have found that this factor is significantly associated with higher son preference, after controlling for many other socio-economic factors. It is however, unclear whether only sons, or also daughters can support their aged parents, is dictated by economic considerations or not. Examination of comparative studies with other Asian countries such as Taiwan and the Philippines show a much wider variance of co-residence by aged parents. In both these societies, parents live with unmarried children of both sexes; differences emerge when the children are married but even here in the Philippines, parents are as likely to live with married children of both sexes while in Taiwan it is rare to live with a married daughter, though there seems to be no bar in living with unmarried daughters. Clearly economic constraints can't tell the whole story here and there is no simple reason why they should account for parents preferring residing with sons over daughters.

With regards to the labour contribution of women, it is often argued that this is less of a gain than that of men. In agrarian settings the main form of such labour is female employment on the family farm. However, data on this is notorious for being under-reported in most official and research surveys carried out by state or other official organisations. Women's' work on the family farm tends to be discounted as merely an extension of their domestic work; little distinction is made between whether the woman did the harvesting or the cooking. This is further complicated by the fact that the extent of under-reporting is greater where women's' position in the kinship system is more marginal. For example, official statistics show that the state of Haryana has an especially low rate of female labour force participation, but in fact women do almost all the manual labour on the fields through the whole crop cycle, while men spend short periods of time ploughing with tractors and operating tublewells. So, even when women are responsible for most of the actual labour input into agriculture, the production is perceived to be that of the men because they own the land and take the managerial decisions around it. Paid work is valued much more highly than the work on the family farm, and this may be especially important for ensuring recognition of women's' economic contribution in societies in which women's' work tends to be otherwise discounted. Having paid employment is widely recognised to increase women's' decision-making power within the household. However, the fact that adult women's' status improves or that their perceived contribution to their household rises does not necessarily suggest that daughters will become more welcome to their families. As long as adult women continue to be part rigidly of their husband's families, they can contribute little to their parental family. Investing in daughters will continue to be perceived as investing in another family's daughter-in-law.

Rethabile says: Women do all the work in Lesotho. They work the fields, gather wood, gather wild vegetables, fetch water (those clay gourds balancing on their heads), usually with a baby strapped to their backs, do the laundry, cook, do the housework, and act as a punching bag [ Alarming statistics show that gender-based violence is on the rise in Lesotho ]. None of that counts for diddley. People still want a boy. Even when, unlike in India, the boy has to pay lobola (dowry, bride-price), not the girl! This has several implications, in my view, among which are the fact that lobola might have little to do with gender preference or gender-based infanticide. The problem, I believe, is deeper and more entrenched into society itself. Boys are just better, we say, for whatever reason we might cook up and tote as if it were the truth.

There seems to be little evidence to support the hypothesis that the poor discriminate more against their daughters than the rich – the usual argument being that sharper resource constraints force the poor to allocate resources to more valued males. Census data from India show that in North India, the higher castes on the whole have had more unbalanced sex ratios than the lower castes. Similarly, district level data from Korea, suggest that if anything the rich discriminate more than the poor. However, an important caveat is that all these conventional analyses look at the relationship between gender discrimination and absolute economic differences between groups. There is evidence that resource constraint affects discrimination in another way: people increase the level of discrimination when they experience a tightening of circumstances relative to their own previous position. When people are impoverished by crop failure or other stress, they discriminate more heavily against girls. Famine is the most common example of this and one which sees such discrimination where it occurs severely.

Scope for Transformation: Looking to the Future:

The implications of some of the above need to be taken into account for any strategy that seeks to reduce and eliminate gender discrimination; of which imbalanced sex ratios is only one aspect. I don't think it is enough to think that economic growth, rise in literacy or vague programmes to 'raise the status of women' are or will be enough, given that the problems run deeper than just ignorance or poverty. As long as daughters continue to be totally absorbed into their husband's home, and cannot contribute to their parents' welfare, son preference will continue to persist even though adult women are integrated into education and formal economic activity. South Korea is the best example of this; as women's' lives have improved dramatically in material ways but their position in the family has changed little. Standards of living have risen, along with technological innovation in domestic work. In terms of health women have benefited enormously from rapid improvements in maternal and child health care, as well as the general level of public health services which has given them amongst the greatest longevity in the world. Education is virtually universal and participation in employment is rising steadily. Yet this has been accompanied by the same status roles for women, discrimination against girl-children and plays a great role in the country's lop-sided sex ratios.

Here legal and political changes can play an important role and measures such as reserving seats for women on village panchayats, as recently implemented in India or reservation in other areas or political representation; have a large long-run impact in widening the access to public life for women and bringing in masses of women into the public sphere where they can take part in the process of deliberative democracy. Historical experience has shown that once given a foothold in the public domain, hitherto marginalised social groups are able to exert an influence on the mainstream political agenda and become a permanent presence. Increasing the scope for such access not just at the local village level, but also at the state and national level should be an important priority for increasing this form of gender empowerment. The mass media too can be a powerful vehicle of social change. The state and private run television and radio in India and China has sought to use this to raise awareness of the problems and constraints facing women, and to project images of women who are able to take charge of their lives at home and at work. They have also sought to use the media to disseminate information about women's' legal rights and how to try sand enforce them. In addition to these efforts at bringing about greater gender equity in social value, much more can be done to reduce son preference by tackling the more specific issue of making sons and daughters more equally valuable to their parents. One method has been the so-called 'developmental-soap opera' which has been used to impart various types of civic values to audiences and through demonstration effects impart cultural lessons to its recipients. A crude form of engineering to be sure; but showing strong and positive female role models, able to help her parents, being able to conduct herself in her own right and not just as an extension of her husband can play an important role in making such behaviour more socially acceptable.

Lastly, the economic aspect cannot be overlooked. Most rural development programmes that seek to encourage entrepreneurship or to give micro-credit to help those outside the formal banking system to build up their own assets or improve livelihoods; should have a gender aspect interwoven into their operation and lending. Targeting women, who are often the hardest workers and a good credit risk; due to their familial responsibilities and role as the main carers of children; can give them access to paid employment in a range of cottage small-scale industries, credit and training so that they can command their own share of household income at a relatively early state in the life-cycle, build up their own assets and not need to depend on either their husband's families or their sons for economic support in old age or even before. This should also remove the 'patriarchal bargain' whereby they improve their socio-economic position in their husband's households by relying on their sons' support who do so at the expense of their own wives.

These and several other policy recommendations can improve the social and economic factors that impede removing obstacles to ending gender discrimination but there are also important cultural factors that determine how quickly these can happen. There is no intrinsic reason why parents cannot seek support and maintain strong economic and personal relationships with their daughters after marriage; making it socially acceptable for daughters to help and keep ties to their parents in this way and for parents to seek to depend on them as well, will play a key role in ending such discriminatory structures.

Posted by Conrad at July 16, 2004 08:05 PM on The Head Heeb

Wednesday

Mekorotlo


© Geoff Peerless 2004
This is copyrighted to Geoff Peerless
http://geoffstravelscrapbook.co.uk

[ Read about the Mokorotlo ]
NB: (1 mOkorotlo, 2 or more mEkorotlo).

Tuesday

The World's Shortest Blog

Interesting weblog, with its one, simple question. There has only ever been one post to the blog; the blurb says, "The MicroBlog Dedicated To One Simple Question." Itching to go find out what the question is? Wait, there's more. There's a bounty for the person or organisation that can prove they have performed what the blogger requires. He or she -- the blogger, I mean -- has set up a Paypal account so those who'd like to contribute to the bounty, increasing it and making it more enticing, may do so. At the time of writing this post, the bounty was $2091.00. Okay, here's the link:
The World's Shortest Blog: Just One Question...

Why that particular question? Has Mr Bush ever been... you know, the question in the blog? If he has, do any of you know of a link or two to an article about it?

Monday

Looking for the Lesotho Tourist Board?

It's done! Now I know why cyberspace that I considered national, wrongly it seems, was occupied by a commercial entity. I'd like to thank the Managing Director of Adelfang Computing Internet for his clarifications. I apologise for insisting, harping on the same string.

The question of where potential tourists should direct their mouse pointers remains open. My next post will probably address it. In the meantime, I've got a list of alternative sites that I hope will be useful to someone. I'm a fan of Lesotho. Why wouldn't I have a Lesotho Tourist Website?

Because it's rather hard for me, being overseas, to get photos. But that's about the only obstacle I can come up with. So, why don't I? I can probably con someone into taking snaps for me. No?

South Africa for beginners

When in 1830, Adam Kok III and the Griqua people crossed Mosheshwe's [sic] territory undefeated, Mosheshwe realized how ineffective traditional African tactics were against soldiers on horseback with guns. The Basotho began to stockpile arms and acquire horses, and trained themselves in the use of those weapons. In 1832, Mosheshwe encountered Boers, and in exchange for some cattle, allowed them access to some Basotho land. What soon became clear was that while Mosheshwe meant that the Boers could use the land, the Boers thought that they owned the land. When the Boers confiscated Basotho cattle which wandered onto "boer territory," the Basotho retaliated with raids against the Boers.
[ Read on... ]
NB: The name of the founder of Lesotho is either Moshesh (English), Moshweshwe (South African Sesotho) or Moshoeshoe (Sesotho). Mosheshwe is incorrect.

I wanted to point out the fact that, well, he couldn't help himself from doing that thing, that thing he was so used to doing, all the time. Moshoeshoe's strength lay in that fact: he appeased his enemy and won them over. He rented Basotho land to Orange Free State Boers and they kept it. If you'll remember, he had forgiven cannibals who had eaten his own father, and later integrated them into his growing nation. He was always doing that, the cool-headed, forgiving, Lepoqo, his given name.

What if he hadn't done that? What if he'd gone all out and attacked with all his might? I think, then, that there wouldn't be a Lesotho today. He would have been annihilated even before he could observe the enemy and understand why they were winning. But even beside that, the act would have gone "against his grain," and placed him in totally unfamiliar territory, the territory of fighters and land snatchers, murderers, enslavers. There certainly would not have been a Lesotho today, because the guy wouldn't have known what to do. He would have been stumped, and his quick, peaceful faculties would have been frozen into non-action.

And what do we do, we, the descendants of Moshoeshoe, the guy who metaphorically called peace his sister? Well, actually we don't do anything. We just sit around and let others mess up our country, or we do do something, by messing up the damn country ourselves. We often whine about the conquered territories... the ones Moshoeshoe rented out and never saw again. I whine about them, too. But what the hell for? What do you want with a big-sized country when you can't run a small-sized one? And the South African Basotho who live on those lands today, think they're gonna want to come back to us? Put yourself in their shoes and think again.

Friday

Undeliverable message

This is the Postfix program at host webmail-outgoing.us4.outblaze.com.

I'm sorry to have to inform you that your message could not be
be delivered to one or more recipients. It's attached below.

For further assistance, please send mail to

If you do so, please include this problem report. You can
delete your own text from the attached returned message.

The Postfix program

:
host fw.adelfang.co.ls[196.25.228.158] said: 550
unrouteable address (in reply to RCPT TO command)

Reporting-MTA: dns; webmail-outgoing.us4.outblaze.com
X-Postfix-Queue-ID: 3FE0E18004D2
X-Postfix-Sender: rfc822; retjoun@lycos.com

Arrival-Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 15:48:27 +0000 (GMT)

Final-Recipient: rfc822; mntsasa@adelfang.co.za

Action: failed
Status: 5.0.0
Diagnostic-Code: X-Postfix; host fw.adelfang.co.ls[196.25.228.158]
said: 550
unrouteable address (in reply to RCPT TO command)

Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 16:48:26 +0100
From: "Rethabile Masilo"
Subject: Lesotho Tourist Board Website
To: m*****a@adelfang.co.za

Ntate M****o N****a,

Khotso. I would just like to bring your attention to my plight. I have been trying to understand why Adelfang occupies national cyberspace behind the Lesotho Tourist Board web address, http://www.ltb.org.ls. Please read what I have to say at the following link: http://lesotho.blogspot.com/2004/08/please-remove-it-2.html, and please take swift action to redress the situation.

Kea leboha
Rethabile Masilo
http://lesotho.blogspot.com
retjoun@lycos.com
I obtained an email address, I sent a message, it came flying back to me. It was a good address, or so it seemed, because the server belongs to the company that is squatting the Lesotho Tourist Board webspace. Isn't anyone's address in Lesotho valid? Trustworthy? Snail-mail. That still works, so I'll use it. What the heck. It is absurd, nevertheless, that a simple citizen is practically unable to get through to the relevant authorities. That isn't one of the features of what I and a lot of other folks call democracy. But, hey, what do you want? Let's try, and try, again...

Beyers Naudé

Robala Hantle, ntate Naudé

Pronounced MOH-SHWAY-SHWAY

Moshoeshoe (Moshesh, Mosheshwe or Mshweshwe – pronounced MOH-SHWAYSHWAY) was a prince of the Basotho, born in 1786. As a young man, he was angry and impatient. So his father sent him to Mohlomi, a famous chief who taught him self-restraint, patience and leadership. Moshoeshoe learned the value of hard work, that the powerless merited justice, and the poor, compassion. These lessons served him well, under the most extreme circumstances a ruler could face.
[ Source... ]

My wish list

I've often seen bloggers and other webmasters place a wishlist in a conspicuous corner of their page. Talk about conspicuous, I'm gonna post my wish list. The order isn't particularly important. But what does Rethabile want? The ten things I want the most, right now, are as follows:
  1. A job in Lesotho, South-Africa or Botswana,
  2. A large or even XL Lesotho T-shirt
  3. Lessons to get me to speak Spanish,
  4. The prompt removal of a parasitic webshite,
  5. A Truth and reconciliation Committee in Lesotho to find out what really happened and to give answers that will pave the way to healing,
  6. My parents to work in London again,
  7. Alicia Keys's album, the one with the 'You don't know my name' number,
  8. Someone to stop the wanton killing of children and other innocent people, conducted under the banner of religion; someone to stop it, not to egg it on,
  9. My son, Benjamin, to play football like Roger Milla and Mochini Matete rolled into one; my daughter, Diane, to sing like Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Alicia Keys rolled into one,
  10. Peace on earth.
  11. Return tickets to Lesotho for four people.

Thursday

Coat of Arms

Our coat of arms is nicely depicted on this page. The author, however, points out that although there's a crocodile at the center (royal totem), there are no crocodiles in Lesotho. True. There were crocodiles in Lesotho, as well as hippos, not too long ago.

Wednesday

Land of no fences

Just because someone decides to call your country, Land of no fences, doesn't mean you're gonna blog about it. Or does it? Land of no fences is a nice enough appellation. Lesotho has been called lots of things, and has gone through many phases of development; it is rather quaint, I find, for such a country to be called thus. [ Read ]

When you really look at it, though, there are fences all over the place. Much lower fences, to be sure, than previously, and barbless. But they're there alright. I was recently amazed at the amount of effort it took me to get a response from an official, some official, any official. It was hard, made more so by insufficient or not really visible means of contact for government officials. That's a fence right there, mate. A wall. You can bang your head on it and bleed.

The size of the gap between rich and poor is a fence. The only thing that's equal between rich and poor is what the rich have and what the poor haven't got. I know that that's a low blow. To be sure, the power of the vote is equal, but that's about it, and that's rather recent.

It remains true, nevertheless, that Lesotho is a land of no literal fences. You can roam everywhere and anywhere, climb any icy peak and swim any clear river; you must, however, make sure you find the chief of the village and report your presence to him (usually, very few ladies hold that coveted position).

Tuesday

Black breast white kiss?

According to Powell, Justin Timberlake's exposure of Janet Jackson's right breast during the closing moments of the halftime show "wasn't even the most offensive part." Powell claims that "the whole performance was onstage copulation."

Onstage copulation? Isn't that the definition of "music video?" Apparently Mr. Powell is unfamiliar with most of the MTV oeuvre.

Was the halftime show unsuitable for the millions of small children watching? Sure. But so are half the shows on prime-time television. And more importantly, the First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech." How, then, can the FCC impose fines on the halftime performers and broadcasters, as it has threatened to do?

The late Justice Hugo Black, who fashioned himself a First Amendment absolutist, liked to dismiss arguments for censorship by waving the Constitution and exclaiming that "'no law' means no law." But his brethren did not agree, and so, notwithstanding the First Amendment, Jackson, Timberlake and the broadcasters may indeed find themselves in hot water.
[ Read on... ]
Jackson. That name again. But let me roll back a bit. I was preparing a language course the other day, when I came across an article talking about the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake incident. During the Superbowl's half-time events, Timberlake had ripped off Jackson's bustier toward the end of their raunchy number, revealing her right breast. This BBC article further tells us that
During the half-time show, Timberlake reached out and grabbed at Jackson's leather bustier, forcing her to cover herself up* before the stage lights were quickly dimmed.

CBS said officials had watched rehearsals and had no indication of the nature of the performance during the half-time show.

And NFL officials were also angry at what had happened during the broadcast, watched by millions of families.*
The language course I was preparing was going to be about harassment and America's First Amendment. I decided to use the article as an additional angle, a different way of looking at how the First Amendment deals with harassment. For example, doesn't it duct-tape the mouth of the harasser, thereby denying him or her of their right to free expression? Nevertheless, I went digging for more material.

I stumbled onto the Madonna/Britney/Christina tongue kiss performance of "Like a Virgin." Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were dressed in white, "like virgins," while Madonna was dressed in black leather. The latter first gave Britney Spears an open-mouth kiss, then gave same to Christina Aguilera. An excerpt from CBS News says,
Twenty years after the first MTV Video Music Awards, and not much has changed — Madonna still makes jaws drop and cheeks blush.

Just like her first time, the superstar upstaged everyone at the 20th annual MTV Video Music Awards, only she had help Thursday night from the latest generation of video divas, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

Proving they've come a long way from their Mouseketeer days, the young pop tarts gave a gyrating, writhing tribute to Madonna to open the show. Dressed in the same kind of white bustier wedding dress Madonna wore while performing "Like a Virgin" during MTV's inaugural awards broadcast in 1984, Spears and Aguilera sang a cover of the not-so-innocent tune.

Then, while Madonna sang her new "Hollywood" in a masculine, all-black groom's outfit*, she shared an openmouthed kiss with both Aguilera and Spears*. The two smooches rivaled the Michael Jackson-Lisa Marie Presley kiss at the awards in 1994 on the shock meter.
[ Read on ... ]
Jackson, there's that name again. I have not seen the Michael Jackson/Lisa Marie Presley kiss, but I wonder what it was like, for it to reach such heights on the shock meter. It is of course clearer than a bell to me why the three-girl kiss went up the same meter. The same goes for Janet Jackson's peek-a-boob. USA Today, among others, says that
It was the climax of an opening number that began with Spears and Aguilera, both in bridal attire, crooning Like a Virgin, the hit performed by Madonna at the first VMAs. But it was ultimately stolen by Madonna herself, by comparison a model of old-school glamour and class, even in a modified groom's outfit that made her resemble a well-heeled dominatrix.
[ Read on ... ]
Full stop. I discovered with stupor that there actually weren't that many journalists who had thought and written articles to the effect that it is bad to have three girls tongue-kissing on a show that is more than mainly for kids. Two girls is bad, too. A boy and a girl isn't all that great, either. On the other hand, there are quite a few articles that trash Janet's peek-a-boob, although we learn that it wasn't rehearsed and that she immediately covered it and that the cameras immediately zoomed onto something else. What gives? The Jackson name or the racist question? You decide. Whatever it is, it sucks. The trio of girls is actually praised in many of the articles, while the duo of boy/girl is heavily trashed, and required to apologise, for starters, then to pay a fine.

Don't take my word for it. Read a few of the articles yourself. You will most probably agree with me. Here are some accolades for the trio:

MADONNA and Britney Spears stole the show at the MTV Video Music Awards when they shared an open-mouthed kiss on stage.

Spears said she was surprised that the lip-lock garnered so much buzz -- and that the moment was more than a quick peck.


But the trio did have a surprise in store. Madonna had come as the man—the sugar daddy, maybe, twirling the little girls, keeping them in line, and finally kissing Spears. She also kissed Aguilera, to be fair, but the camera barely registered it, and we all know that Madonna has long leered at Britney. Britney swooned into the kiss, her mouth soft.

Britney Spears has revealed that her mother was not upset by her daughter sharing an open-mouthed kiss with Madonna at the MTV Music Video Awards.

The kiss proved to be a real showstopper in last month's awards ceremony, with 21-year-old Spears' former boyfriend Justin Timberlake watching dumbfounded from the audience.

And some jeers for the duo:

Powell said he was watching the game Sunday evening with his two children and found the incident "outrageous."

"I knew immediately it would cause great outrage among the American people, which it did," he said, citing "thousands" of complaints received by Monday morning. "We have a very angry public on our hands."

CBS may ask that Jackson and Justin Timberlake be banned from the Grammys if the network concludes the musicians actually intended to give Jackson the extra exposure, said a network executive who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl," Federal Communications Commission chief Michael Powell--son of Secretary of State Colin Powell--said in a statement issued on Monday (2/2). "Like millions of Americans, my family and I were gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt."

Most Americans think the exposure of Janet Jackson's right breast during the Super Bowl halftime show was crass, but few believe it's a federal case.

Justin Timberlake has apologised after ripping off Janet Jackson's top and exposing her right breast at the end of her live Super Bowl half time performance.

Janet Jackson's boobylicious performance with Justin Timberlake at the Super Bowl halftime show has sparked a federal investigation and set new standards for raunch in an entertainment industry that seems to be setting new highs — or lows every day.

* The italics and the asterisk are mine, and serve to bring out what I find controversial, or important toward a better understanding of the discrepancy I find in these two similar yet different matters.

Freedom is indeed an elusive concept,and one that is also hard to describe. I think that every man and woman who is truly free feels it, feels the liberty, and the one who is not free also feels the non-liberty, so to speak. It is describing it that is hard. One can make a list of little freedoms to describe the parent concept, but there's always that grey area. It is one of the reasons the subject of the American First Amendment vs. Harassment intrigued me, and got me doing research for a course. In the particular cases of the trio and duo, isn't the former freer than the latter? Why are so many people gunning for the man/woman duo who showed a girl's breast, and bravoing the same-sex trio who tongue-kissed?

Monday

Harry films Lesotho

Good, old Harry the Prince has documented Lesotho and its AIDS plight. Harry, if you recall, spent some time in Lesotho. This blogger had trashed him, sort of, with due apologies afterwards. The Scotsman article is more about Lesotho than about Harry's movie, to be sure, but it remains worth a visit for those who don't know much about the country. At least the facts are correct.
[ Read on... ]

UPDATE: Here's more and fuller information

Lesotho and the Ramsar Convention

Lesotho has become a member of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the World Wetlands Day was duly celebrated for the first time in Lesotho on 2 February 2004. As a member of the convention, we undertake to promote wetlands in Lesotho and use them wisely.
The Ministry has tentatively designated the Lets’eng-la-Letsie in the Quthing district as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar site) as part of its accession to the Convention. In joining the Convention, the country stands to benefit in that the profile of wetlands in the country will be raised and will also have access to information and a global pool of experts on related issues.
We will also benefit from an expert exchange program and from grants directly related to the preservation and improvement of the area. The convention, we are told, "recognises the importance of wetlands as regulators of water regimes and as habitats supporting significant species of plants and animals." Lesotho does, indeed, harbour an impressive variety of water bird species, as opposed to the restricted variety of water plant species. The Ramsar Convention was named after the town in Iran where it originated.
[ Read on... ]

Sunday

Lesotho: A Search for Alternatives

This paper by Leslie Gumbi, a researcher at the Institute for Defence Policy, appeared in the African Security Review, Vol 4, N°4 in 1995.

Saturday

Top 10 Worst Dictators

Freedom House, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and others have compiled a top ten list of the worst living dictators. The key word is "living," which means no Hitler and no Idi Amin. Our very own Bob Mugabe is number four. If things don't change for the better he's heading for number three, two, one.

They also list some of the reasons given by dictators to justify their methods. I think the one they forgot to mention is The last election was rigged against me; we'll hold free and fair elections soon. The soon can be a mighty long time.
[ Check it out ... ]

Thursday

LTB site still there

On 25 August 2004 I received an e-note that ended with: I have already advised our IT department to take necessary action to manage this situation. It's been more than a week since then. And for that whole week I stopped sending e-mail complaints and letters. But the object of my griping, the bad webshite, has neither changed nor been removed. Which means I'll have to resume the onerous task of sending regular e-mail. Darn!

Wednesday

Our National Anthem

Our National Anthem's first verse says Lesotho, fat'se la bo-ntatà rona, or Lesotho, land of our fathers. The music was composed by Ferdinand-Samuel Laur (1791-1854) and the lyrics were written by François Coillard (1834-1904), two Frenchmen. The freshly independent Lesotho adopted the tune as its national anthem in 1967, a year after gaining independence from Britain. You can listen to the anthem on the government website.
The two French fellows who penned it did a pretty good job. I quite like the way it sounds. The mothers, though--there are no mothers? We'll let that slide. We know how men are, don't we? Sometime in the future, though, we're gonna have to tinker with that line so as to include our mothers, who actually do the donkey's work but always get the lesser of everything. The issue is the same in almost every document written before the, and even during, the twentieth century, partly because the majority of human beings believe God is a man.
Is Lesotho the land of our fathers? We know that our fore-parents came from up north somewhere. My very own ancestors, Bakhatla or Bakgatla, came from Botswana. I've always heard talk of Ntsoana-Tsatsi, a place where the Basotho supposedly came from. "Ntsoana-Tsatsi" sounds like "From the Sun", so it could mean the East or the North-East.
When I was in Nairobi, Kenya, I met a guy from Zambia: Mukelabai XXXXXXX. What was funny was the fact that he would stare at my brothers and me when we spoke. We became friends and stayed in contact for many years after that, for Mukelabai was a Lozi and could understand almost everything we were saying. The Balozi from Zambia, it turns out, decided to go down South, and eventually formed a big chunk of what is today the Basotho nation. At least that's what one school of thought says. Mukelabai sings the Lesotho national anthem like it was the Zambian national anthem. Why? Because of François Coillard. Remember him? The anthem author had adventures all over southern Africa, especially in Barotseland, and must have written the tune in Silozi / Sesotho. The group that stayed around Zambia still sings it, as well as the one that trekked south! So who are we? Do we own this land enough to call it Fat'se la bo-ntatà rona?
What about the bushmen (Baroa in Sesotho, Basarwa in Setswana) we found there? Isn't it the land of their fathers more than it is the land of ours? I think we ended up blending with Baroa, which would give all of us together some right to the land and justify some of that first verse, Lesotho, fat'se la bo-ntat'a rona. Apparently

one important site of early settlement was Nts'oana-Tsatsi near present-day Vrede in the northern Free State. Archaeological investigations have revealed that this area was settled as early as 1350, probably by the Bafokeng clan. These were the pioneers of the Sotho groups who settled much of the Free State and Lesotho. They lived closely with the Baroa as well as with the ancestors of the Baphuthi, who were the first Iron Age peoples to settle by the Caledon River Valley. The northern half of the Free State is the true heartland of Sotho settlement. Lesotho, as we know it today, was the southern frontier of this civilization although the upper portion of the Caledon River Valley was very rich and fertile
The above excerpt also identifies Ntsoana-Tsatsi, which is where my mum had always taught me was the origin of the Basotho people. A myth by many standards. But judging by the age of the Basotho nation, I guess we do come from the North-East or the East somehow, and I guess we do have legitimate claim to this land and can go ahead and call it Lefat'se la bo-ntat'a rona. The next verse is Har'a mafat'se le letle ke lona, or Among worlds it is the most beautiful.

What does one say about one's country but that it is the most gorgeous of all? I certainly am not going to say that it is the ugliest. Yet, looking at that second verse of the national anthem's first stanza:

Lesotho, fat'se la bo ntat'a rona
Hara mafat'se le letle ke lona
I have often wondered what we mean to say. You and I have already agreed that yes, we can lay claim to the land and call it Land of our fathers, the first verse. Which gives us the right to make another claim: It is the most beautiful of worlds, the second verse. We're lying through our teeth. We're lying to ourselves and we're lying to the world, because we do not believe what we're singing. How do I know? If we believed what we were singing and really thought our country was the most beautiful in the world, then

We'd do a lot towards keeping it that way.We would be selfless, and go out of our way to help unfortunate Basotho.We would plant trees all over the place, instead of uprooting them.We would not have burned down Maseru, the capital city, because we'd lost an election.We would not be running away and draining Lesotho of its grey-matter.We would not suffer from IPS, Inverted Pyramid Syndrome, but back and support everything local.We would not have killed other Basotho for political gain.We would not throw paper and other rubbish in the street but in the rubbish bin.
That's how I know. And I hereby ask you, when you hear yourself chanting that second verse of the first stanza, to wonder what it is you are doing for Lesotho that gives you a right to proclaim its beauty before the world. As much as we have agreed that we can safely say the land is ours, I disagree as to its purpoted absolute beauty. Beauty, like love, must be maintained through deliberate action.
"I'm washing my car because I want it to look beautiful." When you're done washing it, then you drive it to town to boast, because at that instant you do believe it is beautiful, because you've done something to gain the right to believe that it is beautiful. Why should it be different when it concerns Lesotho? You shine your shoes regularly, you whiten your "liteki" (sneakers) and iron your shirt to a crease. When you go out at night wearing those clothes you feel handsome, you feel that you can conquer love, you try to conquer love. Why should it be different when it concerns Lesotho?
We're lying to ourselves and to the world. This must cease, if we're to "raise ourselves up and wipe off the dust." One of our common goals must be to ensure that Lesotho remains or becomes the most beautiful we can make it. Beauty rarely comes with the package. How? Look at the list above and start making that 2nd verse of the 1st national anthem stanza true.

Lesotho, fat'se la bo-ntat'a rona,
Har'a mafat'se le letle ke lona,
Ke moo re hlahileng.


Verse 3 is pretty straightforward. We've already talked about verse 1, Lesotho, fat'se la bo-ntat'a rona, and verse 2, Har'a mafat'se le letle ke lona. This is therefore verse 3, Ke moo re hlahileng, or It is the place of our birth.

Why shouldn't it be? I was personally born there, at Scott Hospital in Morija. My parents were born there, in the Quthing district on the southern tip. It is, it seems, the place of our birth. But we are supposed to have come from up north or north-east, if you recall. Ntsoana-Tsatsi, to be exact, and we found Baroa (Bushmen) inhabiting the area that is present-day Lesotho. In Sesotho, "boroa" means south, so that Afrika-Boroa is South Africa. Baroa means People of the South. They were there when we arrived!

We were born there but one of the previous generations must have got naturalised. Oh, it happens all the time. New-comers integrate their new societies frequently, and usually even become more nationalist than the folks that were already there. When the new-comers butcher the already established people, though, and grab their land, naturalisation it is not. I am told we lived and inter-married with the Bushmen so that we became one: Basotho. Ke moo re hlahileng. Hmmm.

Lesotho, fat'se la bo-ntat'a rona,
Har'a mafat'se le letle ke lona,
Ke moo re hlahileng,
Ke moo re holileng.


Verse 4 is in a way a continuation of verse 3. Ke moo re holileng, or It is where we grew up. I personally grew up and became a responsible and conscious human being outside Lesotho. But I don't suppose that's what the lyrics relate to, since they are more figurative than cartesian. I believe that a non-negligible minority of Basotho teenagers either left of their own desire or were driven out1. Either way they, just like me, grew up outside Lesotho. So what does the verse mean, then?

As far as I'm concerned, it is true that the most visible part of my growing up happened in exile, which means my voice deepened, I grew a beard, I almost doubled the size of my shoes, I got sloshed for the first time, and I became a hopeless fan of woman. But almost every seed was planted, and the seed-bed itself was, in Lesotho. That's where I first met hope, felt the joy of belonging, faced desperation, knew fear, and touched compassion. Seeds.

Perhaps things like these happen in other places, too. But my own seed-bed was no doubt Lesotho, so in essence that's where I grew up2.

Mum and I were driving north up Kingsway, toward home, having packed the blue Datsun pickup van with stock for the family shop. I glanced at the clock. Maseru was unusually deserted for six p.m. Perhaps there was a curfew that we hadn't heard about. Or perhaps it was due to the unfriendly looking clouds, stationed across the skyline as far as I could see.

--"It's going to rain...," I must have thought aloud.
--"What?"
--"Ah, it looks like it's going to rain," I said.
--"Don't worry. We will have long finished unloading when the first drops come."
--"I sure hope so."

We drove past the bakery on the left and the new shopping centre on the right. There was hardly anybody even there! We zoomed past the hardware store where a woman was sitted in front on the pavement with small mounds of potatoes for sale, and headed for Mafafa and the Cathedral Roundabout. And Mum jumped on the brakes and brought the Datsun to a noisy stop, and me out my dreamy stupor. She was looking at me, or rather through me at something I could not comprehend. It was my turn to say what.

--"What?"

She stopped looking at whatever it was in me or behind me, dipped her hand into her purse and gave me a zoka, a five-cent coin.

--"Get me some potatoes with this."

For some reason I just took the money and got the potatoes, two mounds, without bringing it to her attention that we had several sacks of the stuff in the van. I did ask her a day or two later, because I was genuinely intrigued. And her answer placed me a step further on my way to becoming a responsible and conscious adult, without actually growing an inch3.
So, yes, in my case, and I suspect in many other cases, I did grow in Lesotho, although I physically grew up elsewhere. And I suspect this of any place that has such a mixture of seed-bed and seed. If the English language does not already have a proverb or adage about suffering and suddenly becoming a model earthling, then I'll just have to invent one.

1 There is no more driving out of Basotho. That nasty bit of our history petered out with the first democratically elected government.
2 I'm not suggesting any correlation between this verse and how Basotho children are brought up or grow up. I just happen to believe that I actually grew up in Lesotho, although puberty came afterwards.
3 It is a true story, if you were wondering.

Lesotho, fat'se la bo-ntat'a rona,
Har'a mafat'se le letle ke lona,
Ke moo re hlahileng,
Ke moo re holileng,
Rea le rata.


Verse 5, Rea le rata, is not yet true. It translates into We love her, or She is dear to us.

1. Lesotho, land of our fathers,
2. Among worlds you are the most beautiful,
3. In you we were born,
4. In you we grew up,
5. You are dear to us.
No! Anything that man loves becomes an object of obsession. His car, his shoes, the woman he's in love with, himself. The latter are pampered and taken care of in unimaginable ways, but Lesotho isn't on that list and Lesotho isn't pampered in any way by any man, woman, girl or boy that I know. If you pamper Lesotho the way you do things you love, let me know. I'll be thrilled.

But what do I mean, pamper Lesotho? Glad you asked. Vote! Register to vote and do it. Don't vote blindly, though, but go ahead and listen to what the candidates say they will do. Vote for the most entreprising and convincing one, and--this is important--hold them accountable. Remind them that they lied to you, if they lied, and demand action. Bang your pots! Nothing will come of anything without your active involvement.

Voting is a right, and voting ensures that you are respected. There are many other ways of pampering Lesotho (One, Two), and I'm sure you can come up with one or two. How about planting a tree per year? And making sure that it survives? Otherwise Rea le rata, as part of our national anthem, remains little more than moot. It is a small enough country; we can all survive in it and we can all pitch in toward its development.