Saturday, June 23, 2012

Paralympians prove Humour is the best medicine.

The jovial Hassiem
Dear Headmasters everywhere,
          Sorry, this is actually aimed at everybody, particularly the headmaster of St John’s College in Johannesburg (see Hitler moustache joke gets boy Jewish treatment), as well as all those people who are unable to recognise the humorous side of life.
          In other words people who take jokes dangerously seriously.
         I was touched, not in the head as you might automatically assume, but emotionally by what I read in The Times about the attitude that members of South Africa’s Paralympics team have to life.
          Achmat Hassiem, one of the 62 athletes who will be jetting off to London soon, believes he can swim faster now than before. Before what you will obviously be asking?
          Well it was nothing serious. He relived to journalist David Isaacson the incident that happened six years ago that still doesn’t keep him out of the sea.         
          He was doing life-saving drill off Cape Town’s Muizenberg beach when he saw it. It was heading for his brother. Life saving was what he was there for so he caused a distraction by frantically splashing around. It worked.
          The 4.7m Great White shark lost interest in his brother and came straight at him like a torpedo. Before he knew what was happening it had his right leg in its huge jaws.
          He was dragged underwater for some 70m. I couldn’t hold my breath any more but I decided not to go down without a fight, he said.
          He kicked it with his left leg. I felt a ripping then there was a smack sound and I broke free.
          Minutes later his brother rescue him in a rubber duck as the Great White returned to finish its meal.
          He lost his leg below the knee but he had saved his brother from possibly an even worse fate.
          But in this case the shark did him a favour. My times are much faster than when I had two legs, he revealed.  I suppose when you have a Great White after you it does tend to make you set new records.
          And just so that Achmat doesn’t forget what happened he has the jaws of a 
shark drawn on his prosthetic leg. 
          It’s fun. It’s a bit of humour, he called it. It’s a fashion statement at the games.Who has the best leg, the best arm, the best wheelchair?
Pistorius & Radebe celebrating
          Samkelo Radebe, who is in the same 4x100 relay team as blade runner Oscar Pistorious that set a world record earlier this year, also jokes about his disability.
          I wanted to see if I could be like Superman and carry a load. I did; hey, so I lost a couple of hands.
          At aged nine his game with an 11 000 volt electric cable cost him both arms below the elbows.       
        If these two can joke about their afflictions and laugh them off after what has happened to them it should be a lesson to all of us that humour is the best medicine.
          Yours sincerely,
          Jon, who got his Laughter Doctorate at the University of Giggle and who thanks his lucky stars that he hasn’t got anything missing, except perhaps for a few brain cells, although that’s not as obvious as half a leg or both hands.

Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on  It's a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of Afrikaner/ English prejudice. 


Monday, June 18, 2012

Ivor Chipkin's cardinal sin

Dear Professor Ivor Chipkin,
          As the Director of the Public Affairs Research Institute in South Africa it doesn’t say much for your researching ability if you quote from my Hitler moustache joke gets boy Jewish treatment letter that was on my Dearjon Blog and then describe it as having been addressed anonymously to the boy’s headmaster.
          I see that in the latest Sunday Times, that has some 3-million readers each week, you took your turn to knock in a few more nails to further torment that 13 year old St John’s College boy and the others who laughed at his moustache JOKE.
It wasn’t enough for Roger Cameron, the school’s headmaster to crucify him for wearing that Hitler moustache and for giving the Nazi salute that was returned by other boys at a fun day at the school. 
St John's PT class perhaps?
          Your article I am referring to was headed Did they know what they were doing? with the subtitle, The St John’s boys who gave the Nazi salute reflect an unconscious racism.        
         I wrote that the headmaster and his staff should have realised that it was a JOKE and that between them and the Jewish pupil who complained, they had blown the incident completely out of proportion. And you lifted part of my story word for word.
          Your argument was, It is funny precisely because it humiliates Jews for having been persecuted.  You went on to say that judging from letters on the internet many adults greeted the incident like this.
          Your only concession to the lads was, I don’t think this was the intention of the boys in question. You don’t have to give it much thought.
It clearly wasn’t and that was one of my main points.
          A lot of humour has a barbed side to it, but unfortunately if you can’t laugh at yourself in this world you can get terribly hurt. And it makes it worse if you read into jokes an intention that was never there.
Unless you are a mind reader I can’t see how you arrived at the conclusion that the incident reflected an unconscious racism. But I suppose if you want to sensationalise a story this is the way to go. This is what sells newspapers.
          Of course you had to do what South African’s usually do when they want to spice up a story about racialism; you put Black and White into the mix.
          How can the incident possibly be what you described as revealing of the way white racism works generally in South Africa today? That’s about as spurious as the Jewish boy’s contention that the incident showed that the whole school sympathised with Nazis.
And can you be sure there were no Black boys clapping and saluting? They do have them at St John’s you know.
          This is why the incident at St John’s is an opportunity, not to single out  this school or those boys (Not half it isn’t), but whiteness itself,  your thesis continued.
Who is being the racialist now Professor?
Thankfully it wasn't the school's idea
            I noticed you never mentioned anything about the racialism practised by the Blacks now that they are in power in South Africa. Decreeing that they must get preference over other races when it comes to employment, regardless of their qualifications, is nothing but old style apartheid in reverse.
             The challenge is to live in the present with the past firmly in the present as well, you concluded.   
          Isn’t that the trouble with a lot of people; they spend so much time harping on about the past, which they can’t do anything about, that it clouds everything they do in the future. How often do people actually learn from what happened in the past anyway?

          So in the main hanging on to it is a waste of time that does far more harm than good.
          To get back to my Blog; surely when you take entire paragraphs from somebody else’s work you should credit the source, which in this case was far from anonymous. Did you perhaps break, what I would describe as this cardinal rule of good journalism because my Dearjon Blog is not allowed to be promoted in the Sunday Times?
          They know me only too well at that paper as the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman who has slammed it for helping crooks (see Noseweek exposes Dearjon letter) and its other shortcomings.
          So Professor, if we follow your logic, isn’t this the worst kind of racialism because I’m White, and as such I have no right to criticise the Sunday Times and it’s Avusa Group, which is largely headed by Blacks?
          Shouldn’t this letter to you and the one I wrote to Roger Cameron also be entitled Did they know what they were doing? because you two grown-ups have contributed absolutely nothing to damping down the flames at a school.
        All you have done is fan them. And is there any difference on the hate graph between that and racialism?
          Yours respectfully,
          Jon, who is happy to have portions of his Blog used by any writer, provided they play by the Queensberry rules of journalism by crediting the source as my Blog.
P.S. Before I posted this I sent it to Professor Chipkin and invited him to comment if he wished and this was his reply: Thank-you for your letter. I think you have misconstrued the point of the article. I assumed the letter was anonymous because it was not signed. More importantly, I think the letter is pretty damning of you actually and the purpose of the article was not to make an ad hominem argument. I will be happy to write a letter for this week’s Sunday Times crediting the source of the letter.
P.P.S. It is now (6 July ) two Sundays since Professor Chipkin made the above undertaking and I have seen no sign of it. Either the paper didn't publish it or the Professor never submitted it and when I asked him what had happened he didn't reply to my email.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hitler moustache joke gets boy Jewish treatment

Hang the bastard
Dear Roger Cameron, Headmaster of St John’s College,
Laughter is the best medicine. Don’t take it you die and that’s no JOKE.
That’s what they could be saying about South Africa if we carry on the way we are going. The slightest thing said or done in jest gets blown out of all proportion.
Of course the media is no help and nor are headmasters it seems. They just love turning a flicker of a flame into a blazing inferno.
It’s usually around some racial issue or other.
College Facebook ad
Now this that’s not funny movement is even stifling mirth at our schools.
Your St John’s College, that posh Anglican establishment in Johannesburg has, as you know, just hit the headlines over what has been described as an anti-Semitic, Hitler related assembly.
Thursday was supposed to be a fun day at your college where it will cost well over R100 000 a year to send a child to get a world class Christian education. But didn’t you or any of your fellow teachers think that you were asking for trouble by having a Moustache Day?
How could you not have realised that the most famous one in history was bound to make an appearance when you encouraged pupils to show their ingenuity by seeing who could arrive with the best artificial moustache as judged by their peers,?
And sure enough it did.
As you know a 13 year old boy caused a right stir by going on stage sporting that strip of black hair that has become the trade mark of one of the most notorious butchers the world has ever known. The boy made things even worse by having a Hitler hairstyle to go with it. To cap it all he greeted his fellow students with Siege heil, the Nazi salute.
As one would expect this caused a great deal of laughter and a lot of boys stood up and returned the salute.
But didn’t the Jew at your school, who sent a letter of protest to you, do exactly what you and the media subsequently did and that was to blow the incident completely out or proportion?
Comedian Herring again
The Jewish boy wrote that he was so disgusted because the entire school seemed to bear no second thought when seemingly admiring this man. Whether you are Jewish or not does not matter, because of the evil things he did in his life – no one can possibly argue that Adolf Hitler was a man to be admired by anyone.
What a lot of garbage. This is very twisted Jewish logic. To even suggest that a 13 year old boy at your school, who puts on a Hitler type moustache on an occasion like this, is an admirer of the Nazi leader is, as I have just said, absolute rubbish. It is just as much nonsense to claim that this joke showed how the entire school admired Hitler.  
In his letter to you the Jewish boy certainly poured on the agony by telling you how members of his family had been killed by the Nazis and how he had been forced to leave school early because of the pain and hurt inside me.
He then told you he didn’t want the culprits punished but he merely wanted them to understand that their behaviour was unacceptable.
That’s another bit of hogwash. Of course he wanted them punished otherwise he wouldn’t have made such a big thing out of the incident and had his views splashed all over the internet.
When I was at school boys who went whining to the headmaster found out soon enough that it is not something to be recommended. But things have got a lot softer since my day so Mr Cameron, perhaps you will be calling in the school’s protection squad to make sure nothing untoward happens to our Jewish crusader.
And of course you yourself did nothing but stir the pot with what seems to be some relish. In your letter addressed to the St John’s Community that was posted on your school’s website you said, This has caused much distress and anger amongst staff, boys and our wider community.
Isn't 'Natives' very non u now?
If I may say so Mr Cameron this is a sensational, generalisation that would have made even the News of the World proud. And it did absolutely nothing to put the whole thing in prospective. It just made it worse.
We all know how the Nazis massacred 6-million Jews, but you had to go on and on about it.
And just to make sure the pressure will be kept up on this little Nazi loving boy, you said that certain pupils and staff will address the assembled school on the following Thursday indicating why the action was ill-conceived and wrong.
Mad Bob Zimbabwe's Hitler
But don’t you remember that a couple of days after this crime against humanity was committed all your Housemasters told their boys why this had been offensive and insensitive. Talk about labouring the point. Now they are all going to be told the same thing over again. 
You said the Prefect in charge and the boy concerned had apologised for the insensitivity and hurt and that they both had no intention of offending anyone.
Of course they didn’t. Can’t you and the rest of your staff get it into your heads that it was a joke, JOKE, made on an occasion where the entire theme was do your best to be amusing.
But between you and that Jewish stirrer you have made it into something it was not. The Jews are always complaining that they are being persecuted, but that is exactly what has happened here, quite unjustifiably, to the 13 year old boy and the Prefect who was in charge.
Jon, a founding member of the International Ban All Humour Society.

P.S. I see Wikipedia says that one of your school traditions that no longer exists is Jocular Thursday, although it may be reintroduced in the future. I wouldn’t take any chances if I was you. You never know what the little brats will get up to next. They could easily cause the next World War if you are not careful.

P.P.S. This sort of thing would never have happened at Bishops old boy. As you know that’s a Church school in Cape Town that’s even posher than yours.
Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on It's a thriller set in South African and Britain with an underlying love story. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

CAR HIRE - the sting could be in the fuel

The investigator who ran out of fuel
Dear Car Hirers,
         David Shapiro, stockbroker and Sasfin Bank fund manager, has thrown a spanner into the South African car hire business in the column he writes for The Times.
         It was headed Profits fueled by clever charges. Paying R20 a litre to fill a hired car’s tank is just too dear. This amount was about double what was being charged at the pumps
         But by being too timid to mention the offending company he has tarred the entire industry with the same brush.
         Even my efforts to get him to disclose the name came to naught.
         He told readers that when he got a car from a well-known hire firm at Cape Town airport he drove to the R3 700 odd per night Mount Nelson hotel (no skimping on costs by his bank) and caught an early flight back to Johannesburg the next day.
         The car hire rate was R308, plus a R55 documentation fee; a R22 surcharge for picking up the car at the airport and R82 for the petrol – Total R466.
         He complained that the extras came to more than 50% of the main hire cost and he described these as clever marketing ploys to lift operating margins without the full knowledge and understanding of the customer.
         I hardly believe preparing an invoice is an expense a client should carry, he wrote. Why fine me for collecting the car at the airport? It’s an indefensible ruse, but nothing compared with the R82 I was levied to refill the tank.
         He explained that his journey to and from the hotel was no more than 40 km.
         I have no problem paying for fuel I consumed as long as it is fairly measured, but applying a disproportionate cost is iniquitous.
         He then followed his half hearted expose` with this pathetic statement that showed his yellow streak. I have no beef with the nameless firm (then why did he mention it at all) they have a bigger bank balance and stronger legal reach than I.
         In an effort to make sense of David's allegations the Dearjon Consumer Watchdog swung into action.
         I contacted the heads of some of the bigger names in the business and asked, When somebody returns a car with a partially full tank, which is then filled by your company; do they get a receipt showing the amount of litres, the price per litre and the total price similar to the receipt you get from a filling station?
         The answers I got from Hertz, Avis, Budget, Tempest and Europcar showed that in some cases the refill amount is arrived at by a complicated estimation system and generally customers don’t automatically get a detailed invoice of the fuel used.
         Most of them emphasised that they only charge the government regulated price.
         Joel Stransky, better known for kicking that drop goal that won South Africa the rugby World Cup against New Zealand in 1995, than heading a car hire company told me that at Hertz it depends on a number of factors whether the customer is charged according to system estimation or actual fuel pumped. These include the location of the fuel depots and whether the client wants the final invoice straight away. He added that the customer can always ask for a detailed break down of the fuel supplied.
         At Avis Keith Rankin told me their system of calculating fuel used was similar to Hertz and that the litres charged for were always reflected on the customer’s invoice.
         If you get a car from Budget the value on the rental agreement is a receipt, Ray Booth told me. If the customer wants more information he is expected to get it himself by asking the Branch for the number of litres that it took to fill or as he put it, You can divided the value by the fuel reflected on the invoice by the cost per litre to find the number of litres.  He didn’t mention what method his firm uses to arrive at the cost of filling up vehicles.
         Leslie Matthews at Tempest said his firm doesn’t automatically give clients a record of the refill. If they want it they can ask for it and there is always an audit trail.
         I was confused by some of the things Dawn Nathan-Jones of Europcar told me on the phone. She said they don’t estimate refuelling charges, but charge the actual amount, and if customers want a breakdown they have to ask for it.
         She added that they lose a lot on the refill side of the business, but I can’t understand why if hirers are billed for what is used.
         Calls to the reservations sections of the firms I have mentioned revealed that the following extras were charged at Cape Town airport: Tempest and Budget have no collection fee, but they have a R55 documentation fee; Avis charges a R14 collection fee and R37 for documents while at Hertz the corresponding fees are 1% of the basic hire charge and R50.
         Europcar’s Dawn told me the collection charge was 9% of the basic charge, which is pretty steep. But then at her reservation section I was told there was no charge for this, but there was a R55 documentation fee.    
         So I was no nearer finding out which firm David had used.
         Mathews’ view was that he should have named and shamed the company he was complaining about.
         I couldn’t agree more. And I think David's sortie into investigative journalism was as bad as the service he was moaning about. Rip off artists, who are allowed to remain anonymous in reports have no place in a newspaper.
         In an email he told me he had learnt that the tanks are not full when you get the car as they are driven from the filling station and sometimes they haven’t refilled them from the last customer. All this is on the customer’s account.
        Unfortunately our car hire sleuth didn’t give me any hard evidence to back his allegations, but he claimed to have had a lot of positive response.
         Well he won’t get that from me until he names the company he was bitching about and provides something substantial to back his generalisations.
         But car hire firms would do themselves a favour by automatically providing every customer with a detailed statement to show how much the refill was. This is especially so when they charge an unpalatable documentation fee. 
         And it would be better still if the hire rates included every extra (not the refill amount) so customers know immediately what the daily rate is.
         Jon, the Consumer Watchdog, who believes that without names no report has any validity.
Comments after this was posted. 
David: Cool article. Well done even if I am a yellow prick
Keith: Thanks!! I hope you are an Avis customer.