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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Gay > Rubrieke | Columns > Christina Engela: Fundamentally Speaking

Blind eyes, deaf ears


Christina Engela - 2010-08-12


Sometimes I get despondent because it feels like my efforts are wasted, my warnings go unheard, my words fall on deaf ears like seeds falling on hard, dry earth.

It was just three short years ago when I first started my "career" in human rights advocacy and fighting for equality of the Pink community. I can still remember those days, when trying to warn of the very events unfolding now, I was labelled an "upstart" and "irrational" and "alarmist" by some prominent community figures. And yet, ironically, today we see the very things unfolding that I warned against three years ago. Uganda is on the verge of instituting the death penalty for homosexuality, and South Africa’s government is acting increasingly under the influence of religious extremists. With the "protection of information" and "pornography censorship" bills on the table today, and with Media24 challenging Act no 4 of 2000 (The Promulgation of Equality Act) in the Constitutional Court, they would be hard pressed to convincingly wipe the egg off their faces.

Of course, these two bills amount effectively to censorship of the South African media – and at least as far as one of them is concerned, it is very cleverly constructed, because if you stand up to oppose it, it makes you look like you’re in favour of pornography.

Well, I don’t like porn – but it’s not my business to tell adults what to watch in the privacy of their own lives. Lots of people do, but I don’t. I don’t see any need to condemn people for liking porn, as long as I don’t have to watch it with them. I have no delusions of self-importance compelling me to stand over my neighbour’s shoulder to make sure they’re not watching porn – mainly because it’s not my fucking business. And whatever they like watching on their own time just doesn’t concern me, or affect me in any way. After all, there are already laws in place to criminalise child porn and security protocols to prevent the kiddies from seeing porn on mobile phones and on TV, so I fail to appreciate the need to introduce new laws which will only serve to allow religious fundamentalists to control what everyone else has access to. No, I don’t like porn – but I value the constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of association more than a big brother state breathing down my neck telling me what I am allowed to surf, watch or read. And because if we start chipping away at these rights in order to suit just one part of society at large, we start eroding the rights of everyone.

Read Erroll Naidoo’s FPI site now – he’s already seeing it as a victory – and even admits the next target after the internet and mobile network censorship is TV and film. Couple this with the "protection of information" case, and you’ve got religious fundamentalist control of the media in totality – and soon you will see bans on anything they don’t want people to have access to:

Tolerance in the media, promotion of democratic ideals, diverse natures, freedom of choice or conscience. Websites for groups that defend GLBTIQ rights, TV programmes that feature gay or trans characters, radio stations playing music by pink musicians, etc.

And of course the religious right is far too short-sighted even to notice that the government will use the religious angle to gain whatever control it can over social aspects before it dumps them and uses its new-found control to turn the tables on them later.

Think about it: the SABC is already a state-owned and state-run mouthpiece, no matter how the ANC-appointed board members squeal and try to deny it. Lest we forget JZ’s one and only half-hearted utterance on Uganda – the only comment made by South Africa’s government against the human rights oppressions in Africa in the last decade, which was made shortly after a presidential visit to Uganda during which JZ promised increased investment in the country, and also helped smuggle in Jon Qwelane, the homophobic journalist and new South African ambassador who has for all intents and purposes got clear away with inciting hatred and violence against the pink community.

With Malema mouthing off about nationalising mines, and the ANC not shutting him up or firing his anarchic and fascist ass, it is obvious they are using Kidi Amin to promote their future policies and to gauge both internal and external response to any future moves they might make.

We need to be careful or South Africa could become another Iran. A country that 30 years ago turned its back on progress and equality and scuttled back into the darkness of conservative thinking, paranoia and religious intolerance and extremism.

I still cannot believe that some people don’t even know what is going on in the world around them! Honestly, one day soon a gay couple is going to rock up at HA wanting to get married and the clerk will inform them that gay marriage in South Africa has been banned for over a year and they won’t know anything about it! And then they will probably get arrested under new "morality" laws they also didn’t even know existed.

Nearly four years of warning the community to get off their asses and get involved. Nearly four years of trying to make people see that "I’m not interested in politics" is the dumbest thing someone can put on their Facebook profiles.

I’m so tired of wasting my breath – and my time. If you won’t listen, then you just have to feel it for yourself. The older generations remember what it was like to live in secret and to be threatened with criminality just because we’re different. The younger generation is ignorant, clueless and is about to find out for themselves what it’s all about. Glad I have a passport. The only thing that still worries me is where to?

I’ve been warning about this shit for so long now, I’m seriously getting tired and wish people would stop arsing about and take notice. Come next elections, in 2011 and 2014, kindly vote these religious fundamentalist fascist bastards out of government.

Taking one’s rights for granted and neglecting them is the last thing you do before somebody thinks you don’t need them and takes them away. Democracy means having rights – but also means perpetual vigilance.

Guess what – I don’t like politics either, but even if you go through life thinking not being interested in politics is "cool", politics is interested in you.