25 Jul 2012

On being creative

I’d like to say a bit about creativity today.
*Yawn* not another one…..
Yes, a lot is being said about creativity these days and it seems that everybody is now calling themselves “creatives”, artisans and even artists.

Let’s look at this:
Creativity as defined by our good friend Wikipedia:

Creativity refers to the invention or origination of any new thing (a product, solution, artwork, literary work, joke, etc.) that has value. "New" may refer to the individual creator or the society or domain within which novelty occurs. "Valuable", similarly, may be defined in a variety of ways.
(This is actually a very insightful article.  Read it when you have a day free)

And artisan:
An artisan or artizan (from Italian: artigiano) or craftsman (craftsperson)[1] is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewelry, household items, and tools or even machines such as the handmade devices of a watchmaker. An artisan is therefore a person engaged in or occupied by the practice of a craft, who may through experience and talent reach the expressive levels of an art in their work and what they create.

OK, so let’s just get this out of the way:  you can’t be an artisanal anything-you-want-to-put-the-word-to.  Being an artisan has to do with making something by hand and/or simple tools.  But the subject is not “artisan” – not today, at least.

Let’s look at Wikipedia’s delineation:

The invention/origination of any new thing that has value.

Invention:           creation

Origination:        Beginning

New:                  novel
Value:                worth

Therefore we can say that creativity is the beginning of an original thing that has significance

Then also: creativity does not apply when you are copying another person’s work. That’s called C O P Y I N G and has no creativity involved.  A copier machine is a copier machine not a creativity machine.  That is all.

Creativity – to me, is the deep-seated need to make something.  I have referred before to the book “Country Living Crafting a Businessand would now like to tell you about the life-changing moment that this book brought to my life.  In the article about her, one of the featured artists said: “….’make something, make something….”.  At the moment I read that, I had my pivotal moment.  
A big flashing neon light wrote in my brain: “That’s what I’ve been feeling all my life”.  
And that was also the moment I came to realise that there is indeed a talent in me, no matter what the “voices in my head” (read: my mother) had been saying all these years.  
Look, I’ve always drawn, painted, danced, sewed, crocheted…heck, I even studied Drama for five minutes.  I firmly believe that the reason why I am in the position I am today is the way I was brought up.  As the youngest of five, I’ve always had things taken out of my hands “you can’t do that, you’re too small” or “give me that, you’ll just hurt yourself” and the worst “you’re doing it wrong, you’re stupid”.  
You can say what you want, but anybody that’s told things like that every day of their life will eventually believe they cannot do anything, will never achieve anything and will – like me, become a “self-saboteur”.  
As a parent, I’ve come to realise that whatever we press onto our children they will believe of themselves.  
And from my own experience I’ve also learned that this type of “learned behaviour” is very hard to un-learn.  Although I am aware of my problem of being prone to sabotaging myself, I still do it.  
And do it often.  
But the big thing here is that I now know that the voice in me saying “make something, make something” is my creativity speaking.  
And now I also know to at least try to not shoot myself in the foot on every turn, as my hungry voice needs to be fed and I need to continue on this path I have taken.  

20 Jul 2012

Five things Friday number 26

I will share every Friday five things.  I will place them in no order of importance, just five things.   I will try not to over-explain.  In fact, I will attempt to explain nothing at all…..

Five days I will always remember:

1.      The day we got a television when I was in grade 3.

Vector illustration of old-fashioned four legged TV set isolated on white background. Stock Photo - 5571542

2.      The day I went for my first ballet lesson

3.      The day I got my first pair of glasses at the age of ten (I think)

File:DKNY Glasses.JPG

4.      The day I first danced on stage


5.      The day my mother told me I was born without any talents

Of course, there are many more days I will always remember, like the day I got married, the birth of my children, the passing of my father-in-law….. But if I listed all of them, it wouldn’t be Five things Friday anymore, would it?

13 Jul 2012

Five things Friday number 25

I will share every Friday five things.  I will place them in no order of importance, just five things.   I will try not to over-explain.  In fact, I will attempt to explain nothing at all…..

Five things I love about being a mother:

1.      Children love their mothers without reserve

Mother and Child Reading

2.      The perfect love I feel in my soul when I look at them

Cute Baby Picture

3.      The lessons I have learned by seeing life (and myself) through their eyes

child eye

4.      Hugs and kisses

5.      Chatting about everything and nothing

Mother and daughter resting on the bed talking Stock Photo - 11426560

If you’re a mother, what are the particular things you love about have kids?

11 Jul 2012

On sleeping South Africans and the Chinese invasion

In China the minimum wage varies from region to region and even city to city, but in a city like Shangai a domestic worker’s minimum wage is around 10yuan per hour.  Roughly $1.50 per hour.

In South Africa the minimum wage varies from industry to industry, but a domestic worker gets paid ZAR 9.00/hour. Roughly $1.09/hour.

Difference not so big.  Neither pays tax.

The Chinese worker probably receives free housing (in a brick-and-mortar structure)
The South African worker probably receives free housing too – in a shack built with pieces of zinc and cardboard.
The Chinese worker receives free medical care.
The South African worker has to pay a small fee for “free” medical care.
China holds roughly 1.3 billion people.
South Africa holds about 50 million people.

In 1978 the Chinese government took a decision to reform the Chinese economy.  Foreign trade and investment, state control over certain prices and formation of private businesses relaxed.  A major drive to educate the workforce was launched.

The Chinese economy has grown spectacularly.  Far faster than the South African economy.  There are figures available all over the place, but I’ll not refer to them now.  We are not economists.

Let’s go back in time and look at Japan after that “nasty little thing” that happened to them.  Their economy was in ruins. In 1950, the per capita income of Japan was equal to that of Ethiopia and Somalia and 40 percent less than India. People were dying of starvation.
Then Japan became one of the strongest economies in the world.
Why? What happened? 
The Japanese government took a decision to reform the Japanese economy.
See what I did there?

I don’t know how old you are, but I remember as a child playing with toys of not the greatest quality, and when it fell apart, my father would say “What do you expect, it’s made in Japan”.
The other day, my little one’s toy fell apart.  And you know what, I found myself saying “What do you expect, it’s made in China.”
No correlation there whatsoever.
Japan became one of the biggest exporters of cheap goods in the 60’s and 70’s.  China is currently the third biggest exporter of cheap goods.
No correlation there whatsoever.

The Chinese and Japanese cultures are hugely different in many ways.  But in some ways they are remarkably similar.  Some very important ways:
Who are the politest people? The Japanese and Chinese.
Who are the most patriotic people? The Japanese and Chinese.
Who are the most precise, committed people? The Japanese and Chinese (well, Germans too, but they’re not in this story at the moment)
Who are the proudest people, who are the people who take honour in a good name, who are the people who value responsibility above all? Why, the Japanese and Chinese, of course.

Why do we, as South Africans not have the same pride and honour?  Could it be that even with all that’s happened in this country’s history we still had things come to us quite easily?  Our country is full of natural resources, natural beauty, space, fertile lands.  We really shouldn’t want for anything from other countries.  Yet we import.

There’s no way anyone can tell me the average South African is less intelligent than that of the average Chinese.  Lazier, yes, but not less intelligent.  We want things handed to us.  We do not want to work for what we get.  We’d rather buy the cheap, low quality import than the well-made, more expensive locally made.  We want to make that quick buck.  We don’t want to save for later, we want to spend what we have now, because there’ll always be more later.

I was washing my mug at the kitchenette sink at work this morning, and glancing over to the upturned mugs and bowls on the draining board, I saw the words “MADE IN CHINA” on every single item of crockery.  I turned over my own mug.  Yes, there were the words: ”MADE IN CHINA”.  
I didn’t even realise that the pretty mugs I bought at my local Checkers were Chinese imports.  Then I wondered where I could buy a South African made mug.  And you know what?  I couldn’t think of one single place.  I would actually have to drive from shop to shop to find a mug that claims it was made in South Africa.  A sad state of affairs.  
I don’t see why I have to go from shop to shop to find something that was made in my own country.  I know there are people who make mugs in South Africa, because my daughter has a mug at home that was made in South Africa which she bought at the Christian book-shop.  It’s lilac with an inspirational message on.  Which is nice.  But I don’t want to serve my guests coffee in mugs with slogans on, no matter how inspirational.
Why do big chain stores like Checkers carry only imported items like these?  Why do they not offer me a choice between an imported product and a locally manufactured one?  Because they know the locally made one will be more expensive and therefore less likely to be sold?  Probably.  Because South Africans produce less per capita than the Chinese do.  It’s a fact.  Look it up.
Per capita means per person – the fact that there are more of them than of us does not come into it.  But it does. 

Here’s a Chinese mug factory.
Here’s a South African mug factory.
The Chinese mug factory can operate around the clock, because there are more people, and because the people are willing to work.
The South African factory does not operate around the clock, because there are less people and nobody wants to make mugs at night – it’s not like we need jobs or anything.
Here is one Chinese labourer in the mug factory.
Here is one South African labourer in the mug factory.
The Chinese labourer makes three mugs per hour.  Because if he doesn’t, he’ll lose his job.
The South African labourer makes one mug per hour.  Because he’s a union member and nobody can tell him to work harder or better unless they want a full-scale strike.
The Chinese labourer works eight solid hours with only one half-hour lunch break during his entire shift.  He does not complain.  He has a job.  He takes pride in doing his job to the best of his ability.
The South African labourer works eight hours.  He takes fifteen minutes for tea in the morning.  He takes an hour or maybe two for lunch, depending on how he feels.  He takes fifteen minutes or maybe an hour for tea in the afternoon, depending on how he feels or how much he’s eaten over lunch which would make him sleepy.  He complains.  He deserves better working conditions.  He takes no pride in the job he’s doing.  He doesn’t really want to do it, because he deserves better and somebody ought to hand him a promotion, or even better yet, money for doing nothing.
The Chinese labourer goes home, having made 22 mugs.  One of which is discarded as there is a flaw.  The next labourer takes his place. Total mugs made: 21.  Total cost to make one mug: around ZAR 12.00
The South African labourer goes home, having made 5 mugs, three of which must be discarded because he didn’t really feel like doing any work after lunch.  There is nobody to take over his shift.  Total mugs made: 2.  Total cost to make one mug: around ZAR 36.00
Surprised that there are more, cheaper Chinese products than South African ones?  I’m not.
Yes, this is a rather facile scenario.  But the scary thing is that this is exactly what’s happening.

The fact is simple: if the SA labourer takes more pride in his work, he will produce more mugs.  The more mugs he produces, the cheaper they will be.  The cheaper they are the more South Africans will buy it.  The more South Africans buy it, the more the factory can grow and appoint more people.  The more people the factory can appoint, the fewer jobless people.  The fewer jobless people the more prideful our nation will become.  The fewer jobless people, the fewer poor, hungry people.  The fewer jobless people the more our economy will grow.  The essential point is this: work harder, take pride because your entire country’s economy rests on YOUR shoulders.  (It’s called taking ownership)

I remarked on Twitter the other day that I noticed a “Buy Local” hashtag from almost every country in the world, except China.  Rather silly, yes.  But it doesn’t make it any less true.  How many imported mugs do you think are available in Chinese shops?  Yes, they import a lot of raw materials, we all know that.  But how many finished manufactured items do they really import?

Look, if there’s anyone who complains about their job and thinks they deserve better, it’s me.  I confess.  Thing is – when I’m at work, no matter how much I loathe it, I still do it to the best of my ability.  It’s called work-ethic.  And frankly, I see less and less of it in the people around me.  Especially, yes, especially from those who have degrees.  The sense of entitlement is scary.

South African, wake up.
Work harder.
Take pride.
Have honour.
And mostly – Buy Local…….

Sources of information:

and some others which I'm unable to disclose

6 Jul 2012

Five things Friday number 23

I will share every Friday five things.  I will place them in no order of importance, just five things.   I will try not to over-explain.  In fact, I will attempt to explain nothing at all…..

Five things I love about being married:

1.      Knowing that there’ll be someone at home to listen to me when things are going badly at work.

Happily Married

2.      Not having to do the dating thing.

speed dating

3.      Knowing that my girls will be looked after and loved in case anything happens to me.

4.      Knowing that he loves me the way I am, and that I don’t have to pretend or try to impress him.

5.      Knowing that I won’t sleep alone tonight.

Do you love being married?  Or do you love being single?

4 Jul 2012

On privilege and responsibility

I read this article about introverts and it was like “Wow, I’m really not insane.  There actually are other people like me!”  Also now I understand why I’ve never been able to do the “small talk” thing like other people seem to be able to.  Yes, it’s been bothering me.  And you know what?  Not gonna bother me anymore.  I’ll say something when I actually have something to say, not gonna talk just to fill “dead air”.

Also, I’ve been bothered about blogging.  I thought that one should have pictures and images and photos and things to fill up one’s blog.  Not gonna happen.  If I have pictures I’ll show them.  Otherwise I’ll just say what I have to say.  And today, I have something to say:

I’m a bit tired of people in privileged positions saying things like “just do this or that”.  If you went to university you are in a privileged position.  Heck, in South Africa, if you finished high school you are in a privileged position.  I find these people who grew up in houses where their parents gave them everything money can buy (and still do – even after they’ve left the house) rather tiresome.  If you hadn’t had to struggle financially for one day in your life, your opinion is not going to carry much weight with me.  
Richard Branson?  Shut up.  Your mother helped you financially; don’t tell me you built your business with nothing.  
Eating a tin of baked beans for the second day in a row?  Wow, shame.  Poor you.  Try watching your partner eat a slice of dry bread for the fifth day in a row while you hadn’t eaten anything for two – and you’re pregnant.  So just shut up.

Life isn’t fair.  It never was, it never will be.  Some people have to work harder than others.  Some people get given things; other people have the little they do have taken away from them.  Whatever.  The people who have should stop pretending they are wonderful.  But most of all, they should start thinking about exactly where it is they came from and stop saying “you must just do …..”.  There’s no “just do” something.  I’m talking finances here people!

I can’t “just” quit my job.

I can’t “just” make stuff full time.

I can’t “just” spend more time making.

I have children.  I have a house.  I have a car. I have a husband.  I have responsibilities.  I have a conscience.

I am privileged.  Yes, I am.  Because I have these things.  The main thing here is the word “responsibilities”. 

Why don’t I just quit my job and make things full time?

Because I am responsible for paying my child’s school fees.  I am responsible for buying clothes for my child.  I am responsible for buying food for my child.  I am responsible for taking my child to school – therefore I am responsible for paying for my car and the petrol to use it.

Why don’t I spend my entire evening and week-end making things? 

Because I am responsible for caring for my child.  I am responsible for teaching her life-lessons.  I am responsible for helping her learn to read, write and all of that.  I am responsible for preparing her food.  I am responsible for bathing her.  I am responsible for making sure she has clean clothes to wear.  I am responsible for ensuring she has a warm, clean bed to sleep in. I am responsible for her knowing that she is loved and valued.

I am responsible, diligent and conscientious.

Hear me now:  it’s going to take me much longer than it will certain other privileged people, but I’ll get there.  

So, the next person who tells me to “just” do whatever can eat my neatly laundered socks.

Disclaimer:  This post is not aimed at any particular person, organisation or article.  It came about due to the convergence of certain circumstances.  This is my blog and yes, it's all about me :-)