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

Reja-vu


Christina Engela - 2010-09-15

POI is getting a whitewash from government, and from figures who think it is a good idea to censor the free press. Some say it will redress the wrongs under the still existing (yet hardly enforced) apartheid-era secrecy law. (Of course they are hoping that by their using the "A word" the lemmings will decide in favour of the POI without bothering to think further than "Oh it must be better then.") Instead of just scrapping it, or using the original draft replacement law from three years ago, which was in line with democratic values, they want to replace it with an "upgrade", a V2.0 – no doubt soon to be followed by an "Apartheid v2.0". The working title for this little exercise in retribution could be something on the lines of The Formerly Oppressed Strike Back, and we all have a pretty good idea of who the main characters will be, and how it will play out. After all, we’ve seen it all before - just across the border in what used to be a fairly prosperous neighbouring country.

While the in-fighting among the different splinter groups within the Tripartite Alliance and the ANC itself can be very amusing at times, mostly it is worrying and damaging to our young and currently faltering democracy. Most especially of concern are the shenanigans of the ANCYL leader, who is single-handedly demonstrating to us just how close we are to a complete failure of that democracy. If he isn’t criticising the Constitution or democratic values, or his own superiors in the ruling party, or its alliance partners, or the country’s president - then he appears to be setting himself up to replace them. And goodness knows, nobody in the ANC ever seems to have the balls big enough to give that disruptive little communist the WWF smack-down he seems to be cruising for. No other political party in the world, no matter how liberal, would put up with this level of international embarrassment on account of a mere youth league representative and employee. But yet, they do - and every day Kiddie Amin seems to be increasingly a law unto himself, egged on by his masses of ignorant and uneducated supporters with one foot still in revolutionary thinking.

Every day we South Africans have grown used to watching the news to see this buffoon open his mouth to change feet at our expense.

Give people like this enough time and enough room to manoeuvre and pretty soon they will be making official statements about how "un-African" certain diverse groups are, how "threatening" and how "immoral" – while of course using ideologies foreign to Africa as a means to decide what "un-African" means.

Terry Pratchett defines "reja-vu" as "a hair of the dog that’s going to bite me" – and what is that, other than a warning of things to come going unheeded and ignored?

I spent a weekend chatting to a very interesting man from Zimbabwe, a man who now works for an international radio station based in Johannesburg and broadcasting on matters affecting democracy in Africa, and also sexual minorities and diversity in Africa. I find it very interesting to hear his take on our country. And this guy isn’t affected by tunnel vision or short-sightedness. Oh no, he’s been around. In fact, he had to leave his country and his family because he had legitimate reason to fear for his safety, and still does. And when people who have been through the failure of their own country’s democracy start to shout and wave their arms pointing out that "this is exactly what happened 15 years ago in my country", then the rest of us need to start paying attention.

But are we doing so?

Oh, I have no doubt there are some people who are watching current events, but overall they are the ones who are making plans to get out as soon as things start to fly apart. Or sooner. I hear so few people actually making plans to get involved to hold things together, to show active support to groups, social and political, to defend democracy and to counter the decay and rot and the stink of fascism and totalitarian intent emanating from "gov-a-ment". I hear so few people talking about 2014 or even 2011 elections in a positive light.

It seems to me the rest of South African society just don’t care about equality or democracy - or that the wrong sort of people do. Those who want to take away people’s rights, they care. They’re the ones making all the noise, campaigning, doing radio and TV interviews on so-called "morality" and stirring up xenophobia. They’re the ones collecting fat donations from churches and sympathetic businesses and thanking the same God worshiped by a diverse section of the population for helping them to destroy that diversity. They’re the ones cosying up to government officials and politicians and sharing ideas with them, and influencing them. They’re the ones walking down the streets on Saturday mornings handing out leaflets about issues that concern them - not us.

The people affected? What do they do? They just roll over and pretend nothing they can say or do will change things. Freedom of speech? Nah, dunno what that is, don’t need it. Media Tribunal, who cares? I don’t read, I watch the box. Porn? Take it away, I don’t like it - too bad if anyone else does. Register to vote? Why bother - my one vote won’t change anything. Employment Services Bill? Why worry - I can’t find work anyway because I’m "too white" and too lazy to get off the welfare ... Etc.

And at the same time, these people sit and complain and moan about their circumstances, or the way things are being done - they will do it all day long if they are given the time to do it in - just don’t ask them to lift a finger to do anything about it. No, somebody else must do it for them. Pathetic.

As a human rights activist and supporter of equality and democracy I have always resisted the temptation to look down on anyone, no matter how different they may be from me - but let me tell you that people who act like this sorely tempt my resolve. Sometimes I feel like telling them, "Fine, don’t do anything. If you’re too stupid or useless to take an interest in your own affairs, or to protect your civil rights, don’t complain when you lose them." Sometimes I feel like telling them, "If you’re too damned uninterested to protect democracy, you don’t deserve it anyway - and you deserve whatever is coming."

They act as if just moving away will make everything better. That’s right, pack up and leave without even trying to make a difference. Do you think the other places you’re running to got to be "better" because the people who live there just pack up and run off whenever circumstances aren’t favourable?

Typical.

But you’re here, reading this. So here we are, you and I.

Yet I wonder why people like you and me have to keep fighting these battles. We’re just people with jobs, not advocates with big law firms or activists or politicians with massive well-funded and organised bodies behind us. We’re people with families and dependants, just like them. We also see problems, just like they do.

The Christians have a good saying that goes, "God helps those who help themselves." In my agnostic mind that is a good motivational way to say "Get off your ass and do it yourself, and you can thank God later." Too bad nobody seems to give a toss. No, "somebody else" can do it for me. I’m just going to sit back and see what they do about it, and in the meantime, I’ll just get ready to pack up and leave when the shit hits the fan.

Sometimes I think all the smart folks have already left this sinking ship, and we’re left to rearrange deck chairs, you and I. Sometimes I think those who are left here are the ones who have nowhere to go, the last dregs at the bottom of the barrel, the people nobody else wants or cares about when things go wrong. We are the sort that would end up being refugees in a neighbouring country further south, if there still was anything further south than us to run to.

I’m tired. And discouraged. For an activist, this is never a good thing. There are too few of us willing to get into the fight, and too many of them in it. My voice hurts from all the shouting. My head hurts from all the thinking. My eyes hurt from all the hours in front of a pc screen. But my ears hurt far more from all the silence.