Monday, January 19, 2009

Holy Cows ,Hard Work and Turning the Tables.

The family and I went to Darling yesterday to have lunch at Evita se Perron and grab a show "Evita Praat Kaktus", and while we had a great day with lots of laughter, great food and the country life I was astounded at how Pieter Dirk Uys can still make one think, can still teach you a think or two and especially show you what true activism is all about.

It was Pieter who in about 1988 taught me that there are no holy cows when it comes to fighting for what is right, who through his show "The SA Bothatanic" lifted the veil of apartheid propaganda and confusion and set me on my small little activist road. It was his waving finger PW Botha, his drunk Pik and his big-eared Piet Koornhof who showed me the ridiculousness and selfishness of the politician, and who taught me that we need to hold our politicians to account.

Yesterday the message was all up to date, using the Sunday papers, Barrack Obama, quick wit, stand-up comedy and what I call a "re-history" lesson, he pushed us to question everything, to use our vote and that every little bit, even one vote can and does make a difference. This of course got me to thinking about the elections ahead, the ridiculousness of our current crop of politicians, whose agendas remain selfish and narrow minded, and the importance of us not wasting our vote and voting with an activist mindset.

Activism, in the form of Pieter Dirk Uys of course does not end with a vote or even a laugh or two, it goes along with hard work. Pieter is one of those people who always astounds me at how hard he works, he never stops, is always fighting for what he believes is right. He has shows all around the world, has a trust to help the people of Darling and surrounds, runs a museum, art and craft workshops, is a prolific writer, has TV shows, voter education, HIV education roadshows, and so on. Stay in any city for a while and you are bound to bump into him or his message in one way or another. His message is only so clear, to so many, because he works so hard to put it out there, to stand up for what he believes and to challenge, through satire and direct confrontation that which he knows is wrong.

Pieter's activism however has a very clear methodology: "Turn the Tables". He does not accept boundaries or limitations set by others, especially those in charge. Instead he uses these boundaries and limitations against those who set them, he strips the power from the high and might by refusing to be intimidated by it and even using their speeches and actions as his script. He has a special knack of using the very tools of a bad programme against itself. For instance I never forget his piece on the banana and the Condom. The government was using a banana to teach kids how to use a condom, he went right to the failure of the governments HIV programme by telling a story of how the kids were now putting a condom on a banana by the side of the bed before having unprotected sex.

So what does Pieter teach us activists for children's rights. Well we can all make a difference even if it is just a well considered vote. Also it is not enough to just think something, we need to act, we need hard work if we want to see a change in the life of the kids on the street. We must not limit ourselves by the agendas set by others and we must use the failure of the system as a point of departure. Thanks Pieter for a great show, for teaching us activists how it is done and for showing us all that anyone, even a small white ageing gay from Darling can make a huge difference and be a symbol of strength to so many.

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