Apocalyptic

I wrote this post looking back at the events that occurred around 3 weeks ago. It felt exactly as if we were in an apocalypse.

*Trigger warning*

Looting and unrest continue ahead of Zuma's case - Prime ...
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There seems to be a lot going on in the world rn, especially in South Africa. If being in a 3rd wave of the Covid pandemic wasn’t enough, we also experienced some intense riots and looting 3 weeks ago. It was quite strange, seeing how things spiraled out of control so quickly.

Today’s post will be another part of the Thinking Out Loud series. I just thought it would be interesting to discuss relevant topics and get insights from different people. First, I’ll give some background to the riots and looting, then I’ll go through the 3rd wave struggle, how we’re stronger together, and lastly, I’ll look at how these experiences serve as a turning point in our lives.

What on earth happened South Africa?

To give some context, the riots started off as protests in support of our ex-president Jacob Zuma.

“Zuma was sentenced late last month for defying a constitutional court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office until 2018. The decision to jail him resulted from legal proceedings seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law, including against powerful politicians.”

After his arrest, many of his supporters went out in protest to this incident (don’t ask me why people protested against imprisoning someone corrupt). The protests quickly turned into some kind of organised mayhem, where they chose a specific day to start mass looting and cause sporadic destruction in KZN and Gauteng.

https://www.autoexposite.com/world/death-toll-rises-as-violence-and-looting-spreads-in-south-africa/

This included supermarkets, warehouses, malls and all sorts of businesses. Highways and main roads were also blocked, paralyzing supply chain routes and causing a huge shortage of many essential supplies, including petrol. For the few days that the chaos occurred, people couldn’t buy bread, milk, order food online or refuel their cars. It was like a full on apocalypse; quite surreal if we’re being honest.

“What we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft.” -President Cyril Ramaphosa

The army was eventually deployed and things started to calm down. In the interim, we all kind of forgot that we were in the middle of a pandemic.

WATCH Looting at Shopping Mall in KZN, South Africa ...
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3rd wave of the pandemic

I’ve already talked about my personal experience getting Covid, but it seems like the waves and variants are just endless at this point. I don’t think we truly understand the impact on the economy of having another wave of Covid in addition to a week of looting and shutdowns.

The amount of damage that was done to infrastructure, to the modes of transport and to supply chains have only made things more intense.

What I love about this country though is the resilience. We are an incredibly diverse nation, with a very strong history. We’ve overcome immense challenges to get to where we are today. Despite the motives behind everything that’s happening and this 3rd wave, people are still giving it their best! We are not giving up. Not anytime soon, that’s for sure.

Coming together as a community

The most incredible thing that I observed in all this chaos was the way in which we came together as communities. I noticed how despite several Muslim businesses being looted and burnt, many of them still contributed and assisted in preparing hampers for those who were unable to get groceries, and for the poor/needy. I’m sure there were many non-Muslims who contributed in that sentiment as well.

Additionally, they were also many people who came together as vigilante groups and neighbourhood watches, to protect their families, areas and livelihoods. It was incredible to see the support from everyone at this dire time, and the all-nighters being pulled for our safety.

Yes I know certain people went overboard with these initiatives; fueling hate crimes and racism, but I’m focusing more on those who did their best to stay put and protect.

From an Islamic perspective, the prophet Muhammed (pbuh) taught us that we should never discriminate against anybody. There are several incidents from his time when he forgave, accepted and embraced people who were once his enemies, people who killed his friends and family, and people who were tirelessly trying to end his life/mission.

The lesson we can learn from all this is to continue being kind, caring and forgiving. It’s not the time to point fingers and start polarizing from different groups. It’s not the time for revenge. We should demand justice, definitely. But until then, we need to be compassionate and lead with an open heart.

Turning point

On the shortness of life. I’d like to leave you with a critical question:

If you knew the world would end next week, what would do differently?

Over and over again, I think of how I live assuming that I’ll wake up tomorrow. It’s quite an important assumption to make, obviously. But it’s also one that can make us incredibly complacent.

As I discussed in my previous post, we take life for granted. We get used to the way things are. We don’t anticipate change as often as we should. That’s why I propose that you deeply sit with the question above. Reflect on what you would do differently moving forward.

Expect the unexpected, without putting too much pressure on yourself. Stop being surprised at the fact that life is a roller-coaster ride. Its proven that to you many times already.

Taking Life for Granted

I’ve been reflecting over my experiences lately and I’ve come to realize that we take a lot of life for granted. Whether it’s the people in our life, our health, our wealth or even the food on the table, we often find ways to get complacent and ‘expect’ it all to be there day after day.

A really close friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a very serious illness, and it was heartbreaking to hear. Not only because of the thought that I might lose him, but also because I would’ve never expected something like that to happen to ‘us’; considering how young and full of energy we are.

We’ve also been through a lot in terms of the civil unrest + the third wave of the pandemic here in South Africa. I’ll touch more on that in next week’s post.

Today’s post is going to be a familiar talk on gratitude. The emphasis, however, will be on ways to improve our daily engagements to appreciate life a little more. There are some incredibly simple steps that we can take to make a worthwhile difference. Let’s talk about observing nature, being more vulnerable, expressing our feelings, showing gratitude and appreciating ourselves.

Kirby Puckett Quote: “Don’t take anything for granted ...

Nature nature nature

I keep coming back to the concept of spending time in nature because I honestly think we all really underestimate the power it has on our psyche. One of the ways in which I personally make the most of my day is by spending some time surrounded by nature; whether it’s in the garden, watching the sunrise/sunset, going for a walk, listening to the birds or even just staring at the clouds.

Just like we constantly need to be connected to the internet, we need to also find ways to be connected to the planet. The more we are able to appreciate the gifts that are all around us, the less likely we will feel like we’re taking life for granted.

It sucks now that we’ve entered multiple lockdowns, we have travel restrictions, inflation and taxes are making things more expensive, we can’t really socialize or adventure as much as we used to. What can we do tho? Strengthen our relationship with nature and mindfully observe how we’re all interconnected – find ways to transcend mass consciousness.

Vulnerability and expressing our feelings

One of the ways in which we undermine our capacity to live life to the fullest is by falling short of telling people how we truly feel about them. We are not vulnerably honest enough. We keep beating around the bush, hiding our feelings and waiting for some future state of preparedness.

It’s not too late to start telling the people who mean the world to you, how much you truly love and care for them. In fact, we should make it a regular habit to do just that. We often get caught up our worldly demands, that we tend to neglect those who are closest to us.

Tell them you love them more often. SHOW them you love them more often. Stop waiting for a birthday, an anniversary, a special occasion. The more love you give to the world (and yourself), the more love will be returned to us.

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Appreciating ourselves

We appreciate ourselves when we’re able to truly cherish who we are as individuals. As flawed, as weird, as imperfect as we may be, there’s still so much that we’re remarkable at. More and more, we’ve been conditioned into a very specific societal view of what ‘normal’ is meant to be. We ache to fit in and ensure we’re not outcasts; it’s part of our DNA (survival depended on us conforming to group norms).

We’ve reached a point in time tho, where we don’t need that same level of conformity. We shouldn’t have to force ourselves to change who we are, to be loved and appreciated (within certain limits, obviously). We should start appreciating our quirks and realize that it’s what makes us unique. It’s what differentiates us from the rest of the population.

You are incredibly special. You have so much to offer the world and those around you. You are loved. You are capable. And you are absolutely worth it.

Don’t lose hope and stay grateful

Energy follows focus.

It’s always about being thankful. It’s always about appreciating other people. About appreciating what we have. About focusing on our blessings.

It’s been rather chaotic over the past few months, so many different reasons. Yet, our blessings and all that we have is still immeasurable. Don’t lose hope. Don’t despair. Have faith. Trust the process. You will get through this. Faster, stronger and braver than ever before.

It may seem impossible now, but you’ll think back and be astonished at what you’ve accomplished. Take care of those around you as much as you can. Spend enough time in nature. Express your love and affection to those you care about.

“Live for the present like you’ll die tomorrow. Plan for the future like you’ll live forever.”

The Tipping Point

A book summary, when last! I’m on my third book of the year and I thought I should write a book summary, considering how long it’s been.

The Tipping Point is a book by Malcolm Gladwell about how little things can make a big difference. It’s an idea about how certain concepts like fashion trends, messages and behaviours spread in a similar way to viruses.

The key components are:

  • The three rules of epidemics
    • Contagiousness
    • Little causes can have big effects
    • How changes can happen in one dramatic moment
  • The law of the few
  • The stickiness factor
  • The power of context

Considering we’re in an actual pandemic, let’s go through these key components and make sense of them within our own context.

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The Three Rules of Epidemics

The three rules of epidemics essentially speaks to the ingredients of how things spread. Firstly, it needs to be contagious. Whether it’s a virus or an idea, it requires an effective method to travel and spread.

Secondly, the concept of how little causes can have big effects describes how once a virus enters your system, it can completely take over. The same logic applies to fashion trends when certain influencers promote a new look. It’s a small change, but it can have a monumental impact on the industry.

The third rule speaks to how changes doesn’t necessarily have to be gradual. It can happen quite erratically. This essentially speaks to exponential growth. We’ve seen that with how the number of Covid cases started to rise.

The Law of the Few

  • Connecters – People specialists
  • Mavens – Information specialists
  • Salesmen – Persuasion specialists

Connecters, mavens and salesmen are critical individuals involved in allowing trends to ‘tip’ past a certain point. Connecters are people who are incredibly gifted socially. They have an enourmous network and know everyone. They’re comfortable having ‘weak ties’ with many different people and form acquaintances. These people are important because they help spread ideas through their network. They help us connect with important people

Mavens are people who typically accumulate knowledge. They also have a relatively large social network. They don’t just passively collect information, they actively try to share it. They find out about the best deals and want you to know about it too. Their motivation is to educate and help.

Salesmen are people who are effective at convincing us about things we are hesitant about. They’re extremely effective at using subtle non-verbal cues, physical harmony and motor mimicry. These are forms of body language and communication that allow us to feel comfortable, heard and understood.

I suppose in the context of our pandemic, mavens provided the virus, connectors spread it and salesmen convinced us that we were in trouble.

The Stickiness Factor

The stickiness factor is about how messages, ideas or trends actually stick to their target audience. It’s presenting it in such a way that people can’t seem to let go – or constantly want more of it.

It’s the way TV shows get viewers hooked; presenting the show in a way that makes people crave more. It’s the anticipation of another season. The keenness to expect another plot twist. The willingness to binge.

For a virus to spread effectively, it needs to have a stickiness factor. Given their biological nature, viruses essentially evolve to ‘stick’ as efficiently as possible. They spread from host to host, with the aim of reproducing and spreading their genes as much as they can.

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The Power of Context

The last idea discussed in the book was on the power of context and how our environment impacts the way we behave. What we need to understand here is that specific and relatively minor elements in the environment play a role in the Tipping Point.

Context matters because it also helps spread (or prevent) certain ideas and behaviours. It’s also why you often hear people talking about de-cluttering your work space. Because it affects your state of mind and how you interact with the world around you. It’s why your social circle matters. Because the people you surround yourself with influence you to do (or not to do) specific behaviours.

For any kind of pandemic to spread, the context in which it can grow matters. The type of people and the way they interact with each other matters.

It should be noted that all these concepts are explained in a much more profound way in the book. Gladwell uses incredible real-life case studies to argue his point. So far, we’ve looked at the Three Rules of Epidemics, The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor and The Power of Context.

Each of these elements can dramatically help us spread ideas and to start trends. It also helps us understand the way in which the world functions. I hope you’ve managed to get a little bit curious about these concepts and to maybe read the book for yourself.

As for now, I hope you have an incredible week and find something interesting to learn.

A Toolbox For Studying Online

How does working from home make you feel? Perhaps you thought it would be over by now. Maybe you were trying to form some kind of schedule but thought you wouldn’t be spending the entire year studying virtually.

For those of us at UCT, we’ve recently received the news that the second semester will be completed virtually. This is not really a surprise, given that we’re in the peak of the pandemic and that RSA has secured a top 5 spot for Covid cases. How can we move forward with this, given how overwhelming it truly is?

Today I’d like to share some of my life lessons and what has been working for me through this turbulent period. I’ll talk a little about scheduling and time management, how to make stress your friend, being supportive to others, understanding mental health, keeping your goals in check and remaining mindful.

Since I’ve spoken in depth about most of these topics before, I’ll provide links to the full posts under each heading.

Time Management

In order to successfully manage our time, we need to keep 3 things in check:

  • Structure
  • Consistency
  • Balance

This is forming a skeleton of your ideal day. Think of it as the foundation of your empire. How do we form structure? By setting out goals and objectives, each and every day.

When you’re consistent with the structure you’ve formed, it opens up time for you to do more. You gain confidence from consistency because you know what to expect from yourself.

Your structure should include time for you to rest, recover and reload. Make sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep every night. Make sure that you’re putting in exercise at least 2-3 times a week. Make sure that you’re spending some time in nature too. Important here is to also monitor your social media usage and the amount of time you spend online.

Time management

I’ve been requested to talk a little about time management, so let’s give it a go. I’d like to first try and define time, or at least come to an understanding of what it is. Then we can dive into how to maneuver through the time we have. I aim to make you feel more … Continue reading Time management

Make Stress Your Friend #2

Flight or Fight!? How often do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or relentlessly chasing deadlines as if your life depended on it? Let’s talk about why stress has low-key been the reason we’re achieving our goals and why we need to form a healthier relationship with it. I’ve talked about this before in the first … Continue reading Make Stress Your Friend #2

Make stress your friend

Far too often we get trapped in our own little cycle of thoughts. Some are true, some are exaggerated, some are just unnecessary and some are completely wrong.

“Stress is your body’s reaction to any change that requires a response.”

Keep in mind that stress is a beneficial part of your nature, it’s meant to help you adapt and react swiftly to changes in your environment. Manage stress by focusing on your breath and finding cues to the present moment.

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Support structures and mental health

This is especially important now that we’re unable to physically meet each other on a regular basis. It’s really helpful to try and form a support structure with your peers, even if it’s just on group chat. Knowing that there are others who are going through a similar experience will make you feel a lot better.

This adds to the issue of taking care of your mental health. Your mental health is something that you need to take care of regularly. You can’t wait for things to go south and feel overwhelmed before you put in any effort.

Regularly taking care of your mental health can be as simple as journalling, meditating, praying, going for a walk or speaking to a friend. When it gets a little more hectic, speaking to a therapist or seeking professional help may be a better option.

Many universities offer virtual therapy sessions to their students for free. Be sure to utilize those resources if you need to.

Mental health

How are you currently feeling about your mental health? We all struggle or have struggled with our mental health at some point. We probably also know someone who currently struggles with their mental health. The reason I’m writing about mental health is for awareness. We often don’t realize how delicate our states of mind are. … Continue reading Mental health

Mindful Monday #1

Have you stopped to admire the sky today? Did you take a moment to notice how the colours on the leaves are changing? Why do we always find a way to escape the present moment? I’m starting a little series called ‘Mindful Monday‘. I’ve been part of a similar course before, so I just thought … Continue reading Mindful Monday #1

Mindfulness

This has been a recurring topic in my blog since I started. I’ve done a presentation on mindfulness a few weeks ago on 20 Life Learners that I’d like to share here.

It’s essentially about finding cues to stay in the present moment. Using grounding techniques such as focusing on your breath, you can control your physiology to condition your mind. There’s quite a bit of neuroscience behind it, you can read more in my Mindful Monday posts.

Goals

I’m not sure about you, but this year has forced me to reevaluate many of my goals. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all, it means that we need to be realistic and adapt.

Goal-setting is a powerful tool to help you move forward in life and to reach peaks you never could’ve imagined climbing. Find a place to write down some of your objectives for the rest of the year and review them constantly. It will make a difference in how motivated you feel.

Don’t give up when things don’t go according to plan. Find ways to improvise and keep looking at the bigger picture. You’re worthy. You’re capable. You will achieve greatness.