Take The Night Off

Conversations with myself

AJ:  Andile, why are you still awake?

AG:  Well other Andile, I was just thinking about whether race will always play a fundamental role in South African crises and social issues…

AJ:  Dude, we said we’d fall asleep two hours ago. This isn’t the time for politics.

AG:  Yeah, but we’ve been talking about this for so long at school that-

AJ:  Nah man, I’m cutting you off. We need to start regulating the use of our rational mind before we lose it entirely. You haven’t slept properly in three days. Take the night off.

AG:  But I haven’t reached a conclusion yet.

AJ:  No one has, Andile. Think about us for a moment. We can’t continually operate like this. You need to sleep.

AG:  Maybe you’re right, other Andile.

AJ:  Hell yeah, I’m right. I’m the smart one.

AG:  But what will happen when I stop thinking? How will these issues ever be resolved?

AJ:  Dude, the world won’t stop turning because you took a day off. Just rest for a while, alright? 

AG:  Alright. Goodnight, Andile.

AJ:  Stop talking to yourself, Andile.

Debate Club (Part Four)

In regions with widespread violence against women, THIS HOUSE SUPPORTS Acts of Vigilante Justice in Response to Gendered Assaults. At first, when the team heard this topic we were feeling rather good about ourselves. I had debated something similar before. The topic was ‘This House Would Arrest Batman’ and I was on proposition, meaning I just had to drop a bunch of Joker quotes and refer to how the GCPD felt about him back in Year One. But the debate became a problematic one during prep time as soon as it came to that opening line, ‘In regions with widespread violence against women’.

We were team opposition which meant that we would have to be responding to the definitions of proposition – and unlike previous debates, we couldn’t just assume how they would define the argument. Were these vigilante acts of justice in response to assaults to women exclusively? Were the regions referred to in the topic sentence so broad as to include South Africa? And how would they define vigilante justice? We found out pretty soon that most of our argument would be entirely dependent on what they define everything as. But we couldn’t just sit there wasting time so I thought, why not define the topic for ourselves?

And so we made the focus of our debate explaining the nature of a vigilante (and the harmful effects they have), discussing the nature of the hypothetical society where vigilantes are allowed to seek retributive justice, the undermining of police forces, and other things that fall under these. We were not feeling too confident about this one at all, I’ll admit. We could have used a few more points as what we had by the time we were done was barely enough for two seven minute speeches. I was to be first and fourth speaker so I was quite concerned about how it might turn out. When it came to the actual debate… well, let me say now that I was surprised upon seeing who we were debating against.

I had met them before. In fact, I lie. I hadn’t met them but I had seen them debate before. At the beginning of last year, all the new debating students attended a masterclass where four students from each school squared off against each other on stage in front of students from a ton of different schools. They were gifted speakers – two of them even reminded me of some of the smarter kids back in primary school – and now here they were a year later, debating against the B team. The fact that they were good enough to speak on stage as a demonstration last year and would be debating against a team of people having either their first or second debates made me extremely nervous. Once we actually got started, we were in awe.

Turns out they interpreted the debate completely differently from us! In their definitions, they limited the aforementioned regions specifically to places where the law was not in the favour of women, they defined a vigilante as one of the abused women who was simply taking retribution, and they emphasized that they weren’t condoning killing by law but just supporting aggressive revenge in theory. We had not expected that at all! We were assuming that the vigilante could be absolutely anyone, that the regions could be potentially anywhere where attacks against women were commonplace, and that they were in unconditional support of the idea of a vigilante. After their first speaker spoke, I saw two options: either we change our debate as much as possible – essentially making our seven minute speeches impromptu – or we could disagree with their definitions and stick to the plan. Naturally, we went with the latter and the result was probably the messiest debate I had ever seen.

We were arguing two different topics and both claiming that the other had misunderstood the motion. It was absolute calamity. It was difficult going up as fourth speaker to explain why I thought we won. To be honest, I didn’t think we won. I was almost 100% sure we were losing this one at that point but I stuck to the script. But ya know what really sucks? When that mess of a debate was over, they didn’t even tell us who won! “The results will be revealed during the week,” they said and sent us out waiting to hear that we had lost.

Now I liked those first two debates but that last one left me feeling bleak. They were an unstoppable force and we were doing whatever we could to be an immovable object. Meanwhile the A team was busy raking in trophies, medals, and other such accolades. I found it interesting how the first debate was a guaranteed win, the second was an ambiguous loss, and the final was a definite fail. I guess it’s better than having it the other way around – that first win did lift our spirits after all. But at the end of the day, we were pretty sure we lost two of our three debates.

Still, I didn’t let that last confusingly argued debate ruin my day. I actually did quite enjoy debating three times in a row with the rest of my team. It actually is nice to step up in front of a crowd (cough, two other people, cough) and share my political opinions (cough, they weren’t mine, they were just the sides assigned to me, cough). I still did look forward to debating again another day… but not today! Damn, I need to take a breather. Damn near lost my voice doing all that talking.

UPDATE:

Just got the results back and apparently (I actually can’t believe this) we won two of our debates… which only means that this last debate that I was just ranting about was actually a win for us! Maybe team prop did misinterpret the motion… or maybe it’s because we accidentally wrote our names on the wrong column and the adjudicators forgot to correct it, I don’t know. This is cause for celebration! Next round is on me!

Debate Club (Part Three)

THIS HOUSE BELIEVES THAT the South African Government Should Prohibit the Use of Self-Driving Trucks by Large Companies Operating in South Africa. Upon hearing our second topic, I was immediately glad that we were assigned to opposition. Arguing in favour of safer self-driving cars, the rights of companies in a capitalist economy, and the movement towards technological developments was the easy side from where I stood and so our preparation time was probably going to be more productive here.

I was slightly prepared for these debates beforehand though. In my bag I had packed Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. A few people found this amusing. Here I was in a friendly debating tournament between high schools and preparing for it using a book of Chinese military tactics. Well laugh all you want but that book gave me a genius idea.

LI QUAN: If you have your own arms and take food from the enemy, then even if the campaign takes you far afield you will not lack for anything.
-Sun Tzu (The Art of War)

Way I interpreted it, if we have create our own argument while also feeding off of the enemy’s, then even if our argument fails us there will be enough on which to continue the debate. And so during our silent prep, I assigned one of our non-speakers to only think of arguments for Proposition. Reader, this turned out to be the smartest thing we did all day!

Our argument was fully mapped out and it was an easy game from then on. All we had to do after a while was assign each point to either me (Opp 1) or Opp 2. I had been fourth speaker before so this time, Opp 2 would take the role of fourth – something I was glad to be rid of. We walked into our second debate venue casually feeling somewhat good about our preparation. But that was until team Prop walked in.

One of them in particular, Prop 3, had the look of the world’s most confident speaker to him. One thing our coach wanted us to consider was that the adjudicators love to see a speaker with their own distinct style and with that in mind, I had adopted the style of a casual character with a smooth dialect and pen sitting comfortably in my afro. But Prop 3 had the mannerisms of none other than the Great Gatsby himself. He seemed a class act and spoke with flavour and finesse, even accepting POIs with the words, “Why not?” as compared to the usual, “Accepted.” His confidence was what really shook me.

By the end of the debate, we had a few minutes as the two teams to talk with one another before the adjudicators called us in to give us feedback. Turns out he wasn’t too bad a guy – despite debating against us like he was our worst enemy. But unlike our previous debate where we were confident that we had won, this one was a bit more difficult to deduce. When we were called back in and told that Prop won by the skin of their teeth ((a curious metaphor, I know)) we weren’t terribly upset. It was understandable after hearing our criticisms. Perhaps if I spent less time preparing for their POIs and more on elaborating on our already established points, things might have gone differently.

But now we were in a pivotal position. One debate left and we had won one and lost one. The next would decide if we would go on to the next round. We had discussed this as a group. Opp 2 was keen to go into the next round, as was our Opp 3 of the first debate. Everyone else, including me, just seemed okay with the idea. But I knew that this was bigger than me. If our A team didn’t make it through, we’d need a backup. So we agreed to try our best to win the next one. There were five of us in the B team, four of whom were allowed to debate, yet me and Opp 2 had done both debates before. We were intent on rock-paper-scissorsing to see who would drop out for the next match but when we decided to take the game seriously, we both agreed to stay. The game was on. I will let you know the details in my next entry. Arrivederci.

Debate Club (Part Two)

THIS HOUSE BELIEVES THAT Cabinet Ministers should be Criminally Prosecuted in their Personal Capacity for Negligence in Their Departments… reader, I had never heard anything so nerve wrecking. We were so used to debate topics with fewer big words that this one sent us into quite the panic (and by us, I may just be referring to myself). But as the leader of the debating B team – a title that isn’t really that significant as it turns out – I could not let my fellow debaters see my weakness. So I took a few breaths and actually looked at the topic for 5 minutes of silent preparation.

Wow, turns out it wasn’t too difficult a topic after all. As the Proposition side of the argument, we were making the case for why the motion should stand and we actually did come up with a lot of useful key points. The problem with the motion was the words ‘Personal Capacity’. What the hell did they mean by that? It seemed like everyone in the group interpreted it in their own way and when it came to writing out the definitions – which is necessary as the Prop side – we would use all our different interpretations interchangeably. We had decided to just go with whatever suits us at the time of the argument itself.

As Prop Speaker 1, I was going to be the first one up in the whole debate. I was nervous because I knew this was only my second debate (and in the case of everyone else on my team, their first) and we were going against more experienced B teams from other schools. But once it came time to speak, my nerves washed away. Quick side note:

Reader, I have this strange trait about myself whereby the nerves I experience before something like a debate or speech or public speaking event or anything along those lines immediately vanishes as I begin to speak. All of a sudden, Andile and his personal insecurities ceases to exist and all that remains is the action being carried out. That is exactly what happened in this debate. I was on a roll.

As I mentioned in the previous entry, I joined debating for the sake of really improving my conversational speaking and I feel as though this first debate was a nice step in that. I was confident, went through all of my points efficiently, handled the POIs and got the debate off to a good start. In fact our entire team seemed to do well in this first round – however I was not prepared to do my reply speech at the end as I had no sodding idea what a reply speaker did and how it was different from the third speaker’s rebuttals and stuff. And at the end of it all, we won! I wasn’t surprised by this and I doubt the rest of the team was – or our opposition. We walked away after receiving our positives and negatives feeling like champs. I must admit reader, that first debate put me in a good mood for the next one and the entire team seemed less like a nervous B team shaking in their boots and more like a semi-confident B team… maybe even more than a B team, A.5 if such a thing exists. I will return with news of the next debate soon enough. Au revoir!

Debate Club (Part One)

I didn’t ask for this. When I joined the debate club, it wasn’t to do all these matches against these foreign cats for the reputation of the entire school. I just wanted to improve my speaking skills. I was two stutters shy of a speech impediment and needed to work towards Martin Luther King levels of speaking-skills. I didn’t think that would mean putting myself on the front lines to be “out-logicked” by some Bryanston kids.

We’re going to be here for 9 hours, 8:00 – 17:00, and over the course of this Saturday (did I mention it was taking away my weekend?) I will be having three debates. I have only had one match before and it did not turn out too well –  and I haven’t really shown any signs of improvement. But there’s no turning back now and my sour attitude is just going to be a hindrance so I’mma just put all that nonsense behind me ((breathes deeply)) and focus on work. I will be updating over the course of the day to let you know how things are going. If I have a mental breakdown, you, reader, will be the first to hear about it… well, all the people watching me will see it first but after that, you’ll be the first to know. Deuces ✌.

Log #004

Social Networking

Ever since I discovered the soundtrack to the movie The Social Network I have found that many formerly remedial activities have become more interesting for me with the right track playing in the background. Creating a shared Google Drive for you and your fellow Exec members? Boring. Do it to the track In Motion that played while Mark Zuckerburg was designing Facesmash and all of a sudden, you feel like you’re coding a website. Getting your Codecademy certificate because it’s an LO requirement? Remedial. Do it with Intriguing Possibilities playing in the back and boom, you feel like you’re hacking into the pentagon or something. Typing an entry for that blog that nobody reads? Elementary. Do it while In the Hall of the Mountain King is playing and you feel like you’re diluting Eduardo Savarin’s shares in the company and maybe I have taken this comparison a bit too far…

Log #003

Grown Up Stuff

I am admittedly in a state of heightened concern. Three months ago, I officially became a 12th grader in my last year of school. One month ago, I became an 18 year old – technically an adult in the eyes of the law. And this month it’s time to apply for universities. Do not think my concern is coming out of a reminiscence of the old days when I could enjoy the simplicity of high-school. On the contrary, reader, I have been waiting to go to university and essentially peace my school the hell out since I was in the tenth grade! High-school will not be something I miss, I assure you that. So what is it that has got my brow soaked in sweat and my fingers tapping this keys nervously each second? It’s the thought that I might not be accepted.

Private school kids like me usually take university acceptance for granted. We are the rich kids who payed all that money on the best teachers and best schools after all so of course we have to get accepted into whatever university we want. But when considering universities like Wits and UCT here in South Africa, universities that everyone and their mothers are trying to get into, it can make you think, “If they’re only accepting 100 students and there are several thousands of graduating high-school students looking at the exact same spot as me, how can I be sure I’ll get in?” This is just an example of course. I do have my dream university. My parents aren’t too fond of it but I see no other option so fitting for me. It’s not that they don’t like it, it’s rather that it is the same university  my brother is currently in and they fear I am following in his footsteps. But at the end of the day, my brother and I have always been interested in the same things from birth to this day. And, not to brag or anything, but I might proudly say that my academic performance is just as good if not better than my brother (apologies if you’re reading this). So with that in mind, one can deduce that I should be able to get in if he could, right? Turns out the situation is more complicated than that.

As I type this log, I have six tabs for six potential universities open – only three of which I really care about but at the end of the day, beggars can’t be choosers and if I get accepted only in one, I can’t get too petty. Thinking about this university stuff used to give me panic attacks last year quite frequently and this year is no massive improvement. But all I need to do is keep my head high, trust my Grade 11 marks can get me where I need to be, fill out a form and wait… it is a scary day when one has to finally concern themselves with grown up stuff. But it had to happen eventually.