14 December 2005


My friend from back home is always telling me different stories and anecdotes he has read from various different books and publications. One of my favourite ones is about Albert Einstein, who apparently on his last times was working on something he called “The Theory of Everything”. On his deathbed he was busy talking something that might or might not have been this mysterious theory, but because Einstein never learned English and the nurse did not understand German, we will never know what he was on about.

Whether this story is true or not, is irrelevant. It is a good story about communication. It is often distracted not only by an actual language barrier, but also different accents, slang and general ways of talking. Anyone who regularly, or even ever, communicates with language other than her/his first, can confirm this. Communication is one of our most important strengths but if it goes wrong it is our downfall.

The reason why I am writing about this is my previous piece about Baobab Urban Youth Conference. I was on a mission to find out what actually was being said by Dead Prez. I was emailing about it with Gia’na Garell from Air America radio’s On The Real programme and she forwarded my mail to a person called Umi, who is representing the band in question. He wrote back to me a very angry mail about me broadcasting and spreading foolishness and petty BS. There was no mention about “pimpin the system “ comment but they denied some other rumours that I am not going into as they said it was not true and I believe that. Needless to say I was not broadcasting any of this and his accusation was completely based on assumption. That adds up to all the other miscommunication around this matter as I do not know where he got this idea from. I was not spreading anything that was not happening. I cannot tell the absolute truth as I do not believe one exists but I can tell what I see, hear and read. So I did.

Umi went on in his mail suggesting that I should concentrate on the positive message of himself and Dead Prez coming around talking to the youth of Cape Town. I do not generally like to blow horns to people who demand that, especially when they are just doing something they are paid to do. I think it was cool that they were there but the amount of miscommunication was unfortunate regardless of what or who was the reason for it. In the end it is not about pay checks, accusation of what I have done or have not done but what the teenagers walked out with.

This all leads down to a conclusion. It is not so important what is being said but what is being heard, not what is shown but what is seen or what is written but what is read. Even if you had the theory of everything in your head but before you pass away you cannot communicate it, it will not benefit us. If you order a vegetarian burger in fast-food place, but they hear chicken, you are getting chicken. It was not your fault, but unless the miscommunication is fixed it will be your problem.

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