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Does Social Media make us Angry

“When we express our opinions on social media, they are more genuine than in print.”



The Write Outlook

Over the last few months I have written a fair number of articles that I have had published on various online as well print mediums. They have ranged from taking South Africa media to task over distorted and quite frankly irresponsible reporting with regard to Israel, I have pondered the future of South African Jewry, I have written personal accounts of my son’s leaving of the family nest and more recently I contemplated the responsibility that I bare in local crime making me fat. 


What I am finding interesting, a very short distance into this journey, are the responses that I receive for my columns and the fact that it seems that when people don’t like what I write, that it evokes real and visceral anger. In order to determine if this is unique to me I spent some time reading comments from other “bloggers”. And my not so scientific research revealed that indeed if one compares Letters to the Editor in a printed paper to the comments below an article on line, the tone, the grammar and “self regulation” is quite different. It might well be the time that it took us in the past to compose a letter, show it to our spouses or friends and walk to the mailbox to send it off for possible publication.


I remember so clearly as a young child of 11, having composed an admittedly very weak poem and sending it off to The Star with the hope of it being printed in the children’s section on Saturday, along with Betsy’s (8, Krugersdorp Primary School) drawing of a tight rope walker. Strangely my poem, which dealt with the slaughter of Jews during the holocaust didn’t capture the Editor’s attention (there is a surprise), and my brief attempt at becoming a world-renowned poet in time for my bar mitzvah was dashed. Either that or my parents never actually mailed it, saving me, and the family from public humiliation given the quality of the writing. The point of this is that I was at the mercy of “The Editor” who, something like God, decided which piece would live and which would die. And if it was published, it meant that it was deemed acceptable and therefore worthy of some respect at least.


So times have changed and everyone can write and everyone can comment. God doesn’t seem to exist on line, or has hidden His face, and it is quite frankly a free for all. In my short foray into this arena I have been told to  “F…” off, on so many occasions that I am no longer even offended by it. I have been asked who the ‘F….’ I think I am in so many comments along with the call for my death in so many variations of the anti Zionist theme that it’s actually not even a compliment anymore.  It is clear that somehow when we do respond to on line articles, it is so often with the intensity of feeling that we would not deem appropriate for the printed option. It is possible that the style of the Blog is more colloquial and therefore allows for this “natural” reaction and as we are emboldened we are less concerned about our spelling and grammar and of course the fear of arrest (when threatening to burn someone along with all other Zionist pigs). It could also be that we often respond alone and we can be emboldened to say things to our computer or smart phone that we would never dream of saying to someone in person.


The positive side of this is that we are exposed to a multitude of views from so many standpoints, some of which I am certain that we would want to know. It is a forum for the expression of ideas and opinions and quite frankly, I have to say that I enjoy it when someone disagrees with a thought that I have. It means that I have caused debate on some level, and that has to be positive.


Others, not so much. Yesterday I learned about the divorce of a couple I know through the (ex) husband’s Blog at a major publication. I accept that I was not expecting a Whatsapp from him (we aren’t good friends) but it was slightly uncomfortable to learn this news like this.  And shamefully, I admit, I even scrolled down to see if his ex wife’s side of the story could be found below, because as it was now our business, I certainly had the right to demand the other side to this sad story.


What is clear to me is that Social media makes us feel. And when we feel we experience the full range of emotions and it is those emotions that find their way into the comment section. And I think that they are great. Good and bad and supportive and not. It creates debate and it challenges and that can’t be bad. I would just hope a little easy on the death wish part, even if I am a Zionist.



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The Write Outlook

Failure of Power

magine what would, what should, and what might happen if the lights had to go out for the two weeks




The threat of a countrywide blackout is slowly sneaking into the public domain. A hint here and a veiled reference there, and suddenly it is all around us. It is slowly taking shape in our consciousness and we can’t quite place where we heard it first. The “what ifs” loom over us like a Damocles and we find ourselves still angry, but yet grateful that we are powerless for a few hours and not a few weeks.

But let’s do what we are told not to. Let’s imagine what would, what should, and what might happen if the lights had to go out for the two weeks that it would take them to re-establish the grid if a total collapse were to occur.

It is December, summer vacation time. Our children are home from school and many are preparing to leave their homes to travel to our parts of the country. It has been a tough year economically and the like the last exam, there is strengthen us to just write it, put down our pens, exhale and then have a break. This year, however might not be the restorative period that we are looking for.

Two weeks of no power would mean very simply that there would be a shortage of everything. The country would come to a standstill and there billions and billions will be lost.

Top-blog on SAJR, over 3,000 reads @ avg time of almost 6 min, Howard’s
It takes a Village to raise a Child – the Dangers of Poor Accessory choices

There will be a level of desperation and panic, hopelessness and anger that will not be easily stemmed.

Crime would surge

Given the dark streets and depleted battery backups, crime would surge and without nightly curfews and the presence of the army on our streets, the country would be ungovernable. Even with them, this might well occur.

The cost to the economy in terms of lost revenue, insurance claims, perished goods, and theft would cripple the country and it would take years to claw itself out of the hole. The Rand would plummet and the loss of potential investment would be incalculable.

In short, it would be an unmitigated disaster and would brand this country with an image it might never be able to recover from.

The mere fact that we are forced to think about this and to contemplate it is a disgrace of massive proportion. The private sector has been precluded from entering this space and so we stand by as helpless as those in charge ruin our country and place our lives in danger. They should have the dignity to stand up, take responsibility and then resign. Resign without a pay-out and benefits. They have blood on their hands and it is time.

We can live without SABC’s shenanigans 

We can laugh at the SABC and their shenanigans because we can live without them. We have made plans and manage private healthcare (even though I feel desperately sorry for those who have to rely on public health). We have learned to live without the post office and those than can afford it, send their children to private schools. But we were not allowed to solve the electricity crises that they had six years minimum to fix, and they have blown it. There is no excuse. None whatsoever.

We don’t know if the total blackout is going to happen or not or if the threat of one is a strategy to make us appreciate the disgrace that we are living through. What we are certain of is that this should be the one priority of government. No one in office should be allowed to go on holiday or take leave. We are at the edge of a precipice – we are staring disaster in the face. It’s time to govern or resign! Surely this is a time to govern or resign!


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The Write Outlook

The South African Postal Strike – who knew?

When the Post Office has been on strike for three months and nobody notices, it might be time to do away with it altogether.




Imagine my surprise when I heard the South African post office was on strike. And to make it worse, they have downed tools for the last three months! I am appalled. How could I have missed this? The country must have come to a complete standstill while I was busy on Facebook. The wheels must have come off, mere anarchy has loosed on our world – things must have fallen apart.


So I phoned my mom. She is normally very up to date on these matters, and told her what I had just read somewhere on the Internet. “Nonsense” said she, “We would have known.” And then there was a pause. A long pause (which is unusual as she normally pauses just long enough to take a breath). “But now that I think of it, I haven’t seen a E-toll account” (which she likes to hide from my father, given that there is a “gantry” between her home and Caesar’s Casino).  “Maybe its true.”


And indeed it is. The South African Post Office has been on strike for nearly three months, and I am not sure anyone has noticed. Can you imagine this sort of thing happening in the U.K. Prime Ministers would be asked to resign, people would have shaken their unshakeable heads. Old men and ladies (and young ones even) would take to the streets waving their placards demanding that this be dealt with forthwith.  It would be viewed, as a sign that society as it was known, had come to an end. Heads would role, but not in an Isis sort of way. But not to overstate the obvious, that is because they actually have a postal service.


So I remember the days when we would mail invitations to an event. I recall so clearly, at age 12, rushing to post box daily to see who would had sent a “Reply Card” and would be coming to my bar mitzvah (it turned out I didn’t really know anyone attending , but that’s for another time). And then we got concerned that the invitations would be damaged or not arrive on time and then we got concerned they would never make it at all, and then we stopped using this medium for anything important – for anything that mattered. So now we either hand deliver or we email. And doctors email, and the City of Johannesburg emails and just about everyone does. Because it’s efficient and because we have been trained to do so. And I am not sure, aside from those E-Toll people, who actually supports the post office.


And it’s not because we don’t want to. It is simply because they have made themselves irrelevant. Like blacksmiths and telex operators, I wonder if there is a future in postal mail and I wonder if the strike is even worth resolving. What if we turned post offices into schools and practiced reading those letters no one thinks that they will ever receive. Postman people can become fitness trainers (they must have some level of physical prowess) and if you really need something you can go to Postnet. Not that I even have ever understood that dubious relationship. Do we even have stamps? The last one I can think of was a 2c one with a picture of a protea. But now proteas are cricketers and I have no idea who it is that we lick and stick.


I know that there was talk that Amazon wouldn’t send parcels to South Africa due to high levels of theft at the post office. And whereas I cant confirm if this is true, I know that I was recently unable to complete a transaction on a book as they would not deliver to our neck of the scary woods.


It seems to me that the SA Post Office has maneuvered itself into redundancy. I have no understanding regarding the level of demand from an employee perspective, but I do know that given the non existent level of service, the lack of delivery and the fact they have very little support, that we should open their doors long enough for them to deliver me that eBay parcel I am waiting for from China (USD2.99 plus delivery) and then shut them straight down one again. It’s the least we can do.




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The Write Outlook

Throwing Caution to the Johannesburg Wind.

Just for the few days of Succot, the mysteries of lulavim and etrogim will replace our worries about ISIS and BDS




 I was having a session at the gym today when I heard the woman next to me berating her trainer for dating a Jewish girl, when he is not (being thin and blond, and well, a trainer).  Incidentally the skirt over her pants and the cap she wore with a few strands of hair sticking out quite nonchalantly gave me a very clear sense as to where she fitted in the demographic scale that is Jewish Johannesburg.


“I swear to God I wont be at your wedding I will not!” she screeched (clearly forgetting that she has just annulled all her vows) and that there were other people in the gym. “But come to us for Sukkoth Thursday (it’s the most Divine holiday), and you can talk to my husband about this. He will make mince meat out of you, verbally that is, I swear”. Pause. “And bring your doll – I am dying to meet her, dying!”


She was right of course. Sukkoth is quite “Divine”, especially in the temperate magnificent spring weather that we are experiencing.  Even building the sukkah, Patrick – who has been doing mine for years – tells me is no sweat at all. But I wondered what Trainer Steve will think of all this when he does go for dinner Thursday, with his doll.


For me Sukkoth has always been the time to exhale. The stress of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, still a very real memory, contrasts so dramatically to this festival of seeming irreverence, celebration and quite simple weirdness. I relish the trailers and trucks piled with branches that suddenly become common on our roads and that conversations about the number, cost and size of your palm-leaves (that makes me a slightly uncomfortable) have taken over conversation.  I love the fervency of the debate comparing fresh to permanent schach and the appropriate use of cable ties, along with how many one can fit in their sukkah, comfortably, many falling short on the definition of that very word.  


From the lulavim to the hoshanot, to our botanistic (I know its not a word) scrutiny of the etrogim, it is most bizarre, even given all the explanations. And I am reasonably confident that I will ever really get to understand it at all. I am also pretty sure that I don’t actually want to, because for me that’s half the point. The throwing off of physical and intellectual yokes is what makes this special. We build (ok, Patrick builds) the sukkah where we eat and celebrate. We give up our sturdy home, and place ourselves somewhat outside our physical comfort zones and outside our rational ones too. We throw caution to the wind, we switch off those security beams (which didn’t ever really work in any event – not since the dogs kept setting them off) and we venture outside. It is stunning and it is electrifying (not the fence, but be careful with that as the sukkah might be dangerously close to the perimeter walling) and we relax. We don’t get annoyed when we see that someone has placed the “Ushpizim” poster upside down (Paticks’s Hebrew has never been particularly good) and we take the time to breath. The air wafts through and we are peace with our world.


My goal this year is to not speak about Isis and the BDS and of boycotts. It is to leave Gaza to the Gazans for a few days, and let go of the fact that the Rand is 11.32 this morning. I intend not worrying about the platinum industry and pricing and strikes and who will be the next Reserve Bank Governor. I might even not worry about the weight that I will put on. Rather, my intention is to focus on the big stuff. To spend a few days focusing on the size of my palms, on the pitom of my etrog, and that way make sure that Sukkoth is in fact, I swear, Divine.

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