JOURNALISM

Today is the 15th of January 2011. I am sitting at the door of my room facing the magic tree. The garden in front of me is my inspiration. My mother planted this tree many years ago easily more than 30 years ago. Its a space in which I feel very safe and comfortable. It is as if I am in a little cocoon connected to God and ready to do his bidding. I have decided that this year I must let go of major goals and doing what pushes me and drives me. I must instead give over to the forces of the moon. I am not quite sure if it is the moon but you know what I mean - to the natural rhythms of life. I am training myself to give over to a different sense of being. The seizing up of my muscles at the end of last year made me consider a different way. I am always pushing myself hard and not flowing gently. Last night's experience with the minister was a big wake up call. He made everyone run around to cut out the original newspaper clippings on the New Growth Path. My mind just does not work in that way. By the time I woke up this morning, the muscles in my shoulders were tense. I also had not slept well. This cannot continue. I have to let go of this madness. If I cannot find another job, I must find a way to be peaceful despite it.

My sanity will be writing every morning. I am nervous to make this statement but I will try my best. The topic I want to write about is my profession. I did not choose my profession, it choose me. I am always struck by this fact. Over the years I have pondered over it and realised that my path in life must have been cut out. Could our destinies be written in the stars? This is a belief. Some times I feel that I am meant to be on a certain path that in a way is circular. If I stay on this path i will end up where I started. But sometimes I step off the path. Or I get temporarily delayed. This year at EDD has been useful and has taught me much. However I cannot see myself staying here. It seems to me like a temporary stopover clarifying and strengthening my understanding of the world I live in. thank you God for providing me with this opportunity. I am ready to move on. I am not keen to be subjected to the madness that I experienced last night. Of what use Allah is this mindless activity. I need quite and peace and to be thoughtful. At this point I have to grapple with what my role as a journalist is. We all have to play our parts in the drama of life. I feel I have to play my part in making the whole beautiful.

Through my life I  have seen so much ugliness. I have been deep in the belly of the apartheid beast and I have witnessed the horror of Rwanda's killing fields. Somehow my life has been tied up with both this country and this continent. Something deep inside me connects to this part of the world. I am not one who believes that one must have a special obsession with a national identity. Our history however compels me to be part of a commitment to a South African identity. Not  because i feel I have to be proudly from a certain country but because the progress of this part of the world depends on the strengthening of a proud identity. In the end I am an insignificant particle part of the universe. Whatever gives us the idea that we are anything other than little ants to be snuffed out at any moment. I am intensely aware of my insignificance and yet aware too that I cannot conduct a public life entirely from this point. I have to participate in what is and what is the movements of our time in order to learn and evolve onto a higher plane. It is only through right action that understanding grows and so I have not only to think but to act.

When I was in my last year of school, my sister wanted me to do medicine because she enjoyed the profession. I was more attracted to law. Yet not quite sure. My dad wanted me to do journalism but I had this idea that journalists were very clever people and I would not qualify. I had never met a journalist during my school years so the whole thing was shrouded in mystery. I also had a rather low self-esteem when I look back now and thought that journalism would be way out of my league. (where I got these ideas from, heaven knows but it was essentially a combination of ignorance and low confidence.)

During my second year at university, my father encouraged me to write to different companies to ask for a holiday job. I wrote 7 letters to various companies and received only one reply. The reply came from the Argus Company asking me to come for an interview. Before going to my classes one morning, I trotted off to the interview. it was September 1976 and the country was in an uproar. We had experienced the Soweto uprising and some of the impulses were now playing themselves out in our own town. I was careful not to indicate any sympathy for these protests when asked. This was a white man interviewing me and I knew he would not be approving of stone-throwing youth and marching students. I skirted the issues when questioned and instead focussed on the titles of the books I was reading. At the end of the rather pleasant interview, I was offered a job for one month, December 1976. I was thrilled and set off for campus happy as a lark. That night when I got home and joined my family for the evening supper everyone wanted to know what had happened. Did you get the job? Yes, I said, pleased as bunch. And what job is it? For a moment i was taken aback and then said: I don't know. This set off a string of jokes and teasing. Are you going to pack away newspapers? I don't know. Could it be that you will file the editors documents? Could it be that you will be a messenger? It went on an on. By then my eldest brother was married and no longer at home. Around the table were my parents, my three brothers and one sister. The teasing did not stop. Strangely not one of them suggested that I would perhaps have the job of a reporter. it was way outside our experience or our ambit of awareness. I only discovered this a few hours after reporting to the Argus early on the morning of 1 December, 1976.

I cannot remember the name of the news editor but when I arrived that morning, he asked me to be seated at a desk and to wait for him. The Argus was an afternoon paper and they were on deadline in the morning and could not give me immediate attention. I sat in the large newsroom observing the goings on. I still remember the scene quite clearly. It was a large space with many desks and chairs, each desk had a typewriter and a telephone. Reporters were popping small sheets of paper into their typewriters and knocking out one or two sentences on a page and then inserting another page. I spent at least two hours watching, observing. Then the telephone rang on my desk. I was surprised and not quite sure what to do. I looked up towards the news editor in the distance and saw him signalling to me to lift the handset. He was on the end of the line apologising for not giving me any time but asking if I would mind taking the call on the line from a member of an organisation called MOTH. This organisation, he said was for retired soldiers and they were organising a camp for underprivileged white children from the Woodstock area. Could I please take the details?

it was at that point that I realised what I was there to do. My heart started pumping furiously. I was scared to death. Me, a reporter? Hesitantly I said: "Hello". Hello said a gentleman introducing himself as a member of the Memorable Order Tin Hat (MOTH).

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