How did we get here, to the point where we are so segregated, so consumed within ourselves and so oblivious to our ignorance we pass ourselves as superior in knowledge, behaviour and action…
I have seen hundreds of posts on social media over the past year relating to South African protests and how the people involved are dangerous, ungrateful and spiteful - how they should be wiped off our land and jailed, that they are the reason this country is collapsing. I have seen racism, I have seen hatred, I have seen stereotyping and I have seen ignorance. However, I have seldom seen someone take a stand and offer an explanation, I have seldom seen someone be accountable for their online involvement, let alone open themselves up to understanding what is really going on.
Burning tyres, throwing rocks and vandalising buildings are violent, malicious actions that should not be tolerated… But have you ever stopped to think what social media posts are? The ones that criticise these people and their actions, through racial comments often accompanied by personal opinions that direct all the blame and shame to the participants. South Africans, the ones that live in their ‘high-life’ bubbles who think they are highly educated and informed, often have no idea what is really going on, nor do they take the time to understand.
A perfect example of ignorance and misunderstanding is a comment I read many a time during last year's #FeesMustFall protests:
“How can someone wearing an ANC shirt be protesting against the #FeesMustFall campaign when it’s the government they support that is responsible?”
Firstly South Africa, have you ever taken the time to understand what constitutes supporting a political party by individuals other than your friends and family? The ANC is not just a bunch of delegates and officials to most South Africans, they are family. The ANC is their community leader, their inspiration, their advisor, their father and their mother. People that still support the ANC do so not because they think they are the best thing since ‘sliced bread’, but because they are extended family. The same way you would support your brother, even though he has failed two university degrees, written off your car by accident and lied about stealing money - especially if he apologises.
Wearing an ANC shirt while protesting about the University Fees is like having an intervention with your brother - You don't agree with what he is doing, so you take a stand. The outcome of the intervention may either build or break your relationship. Yet most South Africans would rather rant on Social Media that these people are clueless, they have no understanding of what they are doing. But it's actually you, the one who posts the first thing that comes to mind and follows main stream media that has no clue.
When you post something online, and it is shared a hundred times. That post, your opinion, is read by hundreds of thousands of people. The media shapes public perception - most people in this world take newspapers and television for fact, and now it seems that a post by your friend 'John', falls under the same fact. Do you ever take the time to put yourself in someone else's situation? You can’t, you literally can’t imagine what it must be like to live in a slum where you share a room with 5 other people on a damp floor, no mattress, no heater, a leaking roof and no shower - while you are sitting in your living room in front of a flat screen TV, surrounded by a world of luxury. You need to make the effort to experience what it’s like first hand - It’s the only way to get even close to experiencing a day in the life of a large percentage of South Africa’s population.
The important thing to note is that when you engage in a Social Media post that is highlighting your misinformed negative opinion on a South African protest, or any South African occurrence for that matter - You are literally creating an ONLINE FIRE. You are throwing rocks of skewed perception, burning racial tensions to an all time high and vandalising hope for the country.
The South African government DOES NOT react to diplomatic reasoning and constructive discussion. The only way people in this country are heard is through physical action. It is not right, I do not support violent actions, nor do I condone them… I understand them.. I understand that when you live in some of the most impoverished conditions imaginable, in places where drugs and violence are out of control and your children have very little hope for a better future, that the only way forward seems to be to fight. These people are fighting for their lives, fighting for more than freedom and delivery services.. They are fighting for their right to life.
Once you understand that, maybe you will take some time to think before you call them animals…. Before you criticise their actions and judge their values… Before you spread an online fire of misinformation and poorly backed judgements… You are directing your energy towards the wrong people.
These people are reaching out, in the only way they can. It’s not acceptable and it needs to change, but every time you post about how embarrassing the ‘Working On Fire’ firefighters are in Canada, or how Marikana miners deserved what was coming, or that Hammanskraal residents are starting armageddon, you are making the situation worse. Every time you post on social media directing negativity to the participants without being properly informed, you are starting an online fire. Yes, sometimes the participants of protests are completely in the wrong, they engage in violent affairs that injure incident bystanders etc. But none of this would ever happen if people were happy!
We need to help the helpless, we need to create a united online front for change. More importantly, we need to UNDERSTAND… Understand why people are unhappy, work with them towards a more accountable and efficient government and promote constructive explanations and solutions for each and every situation.
Ending the online fire is the start, ending the struggle on the ground will take years, but it’s possible.
If I had nothing, If my voice was not heard and I didn't know how to get through the next day. I would do anything to secure some sort of future for myself and my family.
What would you do? If you could entirely put yourself in the shoes of the less fortunate?
Disclaimer: Please note that all content within this post is of my own personal opinion and does not reflect, represent or identify with any individual other than myself. All of the examples used are not directed at any one specific ethnic or religious group. All comments on this post that neglect Facebooks Offensive Content Policy (http://bit.ly/1vdRz2v) will be removed with immediate effect.