Oscar, Africa, social media and schadenfreude

The tragic Oscar Pistorius issue aside, I’m tired of the inference that the “wealthy” in South Africa are all hiding behind walls, when the truth is, we are ALL hiding behind walls. The more we earn, the higher the walls. I have been robbed several times – twice in my “wealthy, gated community” in one of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs (it’s an apartment block with walls, like many, many others in South Africa) . Once by Annanias Mathe, then the most wanted criminal in South Africa, a murderer and rapist. Once, years before, I fired a shot (yes, from a gun I owned back then when women were being hijacked and take to places where they were gang raped etc) at two men who had robbed my house and were coming out of my house and towards me as I arrived home. My OWN home. Where I should be entitled to feel safe. Fortunately for me, I didn’t kill anyone. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t raped or murdered either.

To understand how each and every one of us is living “inside”, we have to understand that the “fight or flight” response (already fixed when people still refer to us a “foetuses”) is tested every minute of every day in South Africa. Stop at a light and you don’t know if the person who appears at your car window has an avocado pear for sale or an AK47. Our society, as a whole, is NOT normal. You discover this when you go to civilised places like Toronto and walk the dog at 11pm without getting murdered.

Whether I think Oscar is guilty or not, it would benefit all of us to look at how WE are . . . how quickly someone is an “asshole” on the road; how much sheer hatred (with little action taken) is generated by our opinions on the Middle East or the horse meat issue or any number of other things we hear and see on Facebook and in other “news”. Where does that anger/hatred go, once generated?

The Oscar tragedy has brought out some interesting and disturbing reactions – blood baying, disregarding his right to a fair trial before finding him guilty, massive jealousy about wealthy young people . . . and yet I haven’t seen as much outrage about the crowds around the taxi driver being dragged to his death. HIS death, yes – but the people standing around CHEERING the police on?? THAT is what our nation has become . . . But we’ll find something to blame that heinous, cheering behaviour on – laws, history, poverty etc etc – when what should really terrify us is our collective propensity toward violent and vicious thoughts ourselves.

Rant almost over – here is one of the best pieces I have read on the Oscar killing, by the reasonable and thoughtful Justice Malala  – note this piece:

“The truth, however, is that South Africa is a country of violence. We have often been labelled the “crime capital of the world”, and many like Pistorius own firearms, supposedly to protect themselves from burglars and robbers. Last week, the country was in mourning after a 17-year-old girl died after being gang-raped. It is who we are. Perhaps that is why we struggled to accept that “one of us” might have pulled the trigger – with tragic consequences.”

It’s time each of us turns our energy towards looking at ourselves, rather than at others every time a heinous crime is committed in South Africa. In fact, it’s time we all stop and look at how quickly we “take sides” before knowing all the facts; how we continually pass on “the bad news” in social media; how few times a day any of us reads any good news at all (or makes a decision based all three sides of a story), let alone passes it on.

Schadenfreude – pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others – creates sick societies. And “slacktivism” – the idea that you may do some good from behind your keyboard by “making people aware” on social media rather than actually taking some action – is schadenfreude’s first cousin.

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