Friday, November 21, 2008

Sociology 101

Pen-slinger is often accused of indulging in inane and pointless humor when all around us blue-chip stocks are performing graceful, swooning dives from historical highs, and billionaires are looking worriedly at their last billion and muttering darkly about socialist revolutions, not to mentions smaller fries like you and me who are thinking nostalgically of those good ol’ days when there were those things called ‘jobs’ and ‘paychecks’. Not to mention those TGIF parties (remember those?), where the boss got drunk and did things he regretted the next day.

Anyway, recognizing that sobriety and seriousness are the watchwords in these difficult times, we revive our serious and educative 101 series.

This time we gravely turn our attention to sociology, and examine the socio-ethnic dynamics in the multi-racial South African community.

Please carefully study the following instructive and educational news item which appeared in major newspapers around the world a few weeks ago, and then answer the questions below. Evaluate what you read. Try to read between the lines, and find the ‘story behind the story’. We are developing analytical skills here.

COMPREHENSION TEXT

Indians in SA kill three over ‘Manhood’ size

(Times of India, 14th September 2008)
Durban: Three men were shot dead and two injured after an argument between a group of Indian and white visitors to a bar here, allegedly over the size of their genitals.
Superintendent Muzi Mngomezulu of the South African police confirmed that five people were arrested in the early hours of Thursday morning in connection with the shootings, which erupted after a confrontation between white and Indian patrons of the bar on Wednesday evening. Two of them were in possession of firearms believed to have been used in the killings.
A worker at the bar, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, said a customer of Indian origin had remarked to a white customer while they were both at the urinal in the bar that his manhood was bigger than that of the white customer. “After both men returned to their friends, the two groups began swearing at each other before the group of five Indian men left the scene and all returned with firearms. They opened fire and three guys died on the spot. The other two were rushed to St Augustine’s Hospital, where I am told they are critical.”
Mngomezulu said the argument is believed to have been racially motivated, although he could not confirm the incident at the urinal. Durban is home to two-thirds of South Africa’s 1.2 million Indians, with the unique Indian accent there often being the butt of jokes by comedians and arguments sometimes erupting over it. AGENCIES

Also view: http://www.epherald.co.za/herald/2008/09/12/news/n08_12092008.htm

QUESTIONS

Q1-What do you understand by ‘Manhood’, as used in the text?
a. Umm…do you think it is what I think it is?
b. It’s a euphemism.
c. It is an abstract, philosophical religo-cultural concept, with deep socio-psychological ramifications and extensive hagiography.
d. You don’t wanna know

Q2 - So, whose manhood really IS bigger? White South Africans or brown South Africans?
a. Are you asking my opinion?
b. The text does not make it clear
c. It depends
d. White South Africans
e. Brown South Africans

Q3 – What does this incident tell us about race relations in South Africa?
a. They are cordial
b. They are hostile
c. They are competitively healthy
d. They revolve largely around ‘Manhood’ issues

Q4. – Do women have similar arguments about the size of their ‘Womanhood’- whatever that may be?
a. Yes, of course. What did you imagine?
b. No, of course not. Only the primitive male brain is capable of such things
c. Yes and No. Yes they argue, but the arguments are usually about the size of their handbags.
d. Womanhood is an abstract, philosophical religo-cultural concept, with deep socio-psychological ramifications and extensive hagiography.

Q5. – Who is Muzi Mngomezulu?

a. He da’ man in manhood
b. High priest of an underground cabbalistic sect in Durban
c. The bartender of the restaurant where the incident took place
d. Superintendent of the South African police

ANSWERS

Q1- (What is Manhood?) Let us examine each option one by one.
a. I don’t know. What do you think it is? This is a humor blog, not Clairvoyants Inc.
b. What is a euphemism? We don’t DO big words in this blog. Next you’ll say euphemism is a euphemism for euphemism. Where does it end?
c. Huh?
d. Correct Answer! You don’t wanna know. Really you don’t.

Q2- (Whose Manhood really is bigger?) What did you answer?
a. No.
b. So what do you expect? Do you have to be spoon-fed each answer? We’re learning to analyze and read between the lines, remember?
c. What kind of wishy-washy answer is that?
d. Maybe.
e. Perhaps

Correct Answer: Irrelevant.
What do you imagine we are doing here? This is Sociology, not Comparative Biology.

Q3 – (What does this incident tell us about race relations in South Africa?)

This is a tough one, with no obviously correct answers. Let us examine the facts: A white man and a brown man are in a restaurant together: obviously segregation in restaurants no longer exists. They go to the toilet together: obviously segregation in restaurant toilets no longer exists. They take a good long look at each others manhoods: obviously, segregation of urinals no longer exists. The South Africans have done away that last artificial barrier between man and man – the urinal partition.

Having taken a look, they enter into a polite discussion about comparative sizes: this indicates an open and frank attitude to a sensitive issue which most societies usually tend to suppress under a suffocating blanket of political correctness. The discussion turns increasingly frank and candid, with views put forth with vigor and supported by complex dialectical arguments, and a few assorted invectives are thrown in for enlivening the debate: this indicates a deep understanding and passion for the subject.

Finally, when the debate cannot be resolved through dialectics, the parties concerned resolve it in the time-honored male tradition of pulling out a gun and blowing each others heads off.

To me this indicates an open, warm and honest relationship. So I would say the correct answer is A- Cordial. What do you think?

Q4. – (Do women have similar arguments?)

Honestly, I don’t have the answer to this one. Perhaps female readers of this blog would care to enlighten us on this. Please leave your answers as comments on this blog.

Q5. – (Who is Muzi Mngomezulu?)

If you take the news clipping at face value, the obvious answer is D. – Superintendent of police in Durban.

But are things really so straightforward?

On whose authority do we have this information? Some nameless, faceless entity that goes under the alias of AGENCIES. Has anyone seen AGENCIES? Has anyone shared a cup of coffee with AGENCIES? Has anyone spoken to him, her or it?

Then again, study the text – the whole thing is based on the claims of this same Muzi Mngomezulu. There is no independent corroboration. How do we know he is telling the truth? How do we know this isn’t some sort of a cover-up for a right-wing conspiracy to suppress discussions about manhood? Who is Muzi Mngomezulu, really? If all parties concerned got their heads shot off, who told Mngomezulu all these things? The whole thing looks very suspicious.

Pen-slinger will not let it go so easily. We will delve further into this matter, investigating fearlessly until the whole ugly truth is revealed.

Watch this space.

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