Saturday, August 27, 2011

Social Commentary (27 Feb 2008)

This is a really bad idea considering that I have a lot of work to do but I had to indulge myself and express my inner turmoil today. Everybody knows that I'm particularly optimistic about the future of South Africa and the continent at large but there are a few things that concern me about the way things are going and without joining the choir of dissenters, I want to put them out there because they bothered me enough to stop me from being productive this afternoon! After all, one cannot be led blindly and the secret to a healthy democracy is voicing out opinions against behaviour/ laws/ institutions that are inherently wrong.

This is not anything new or revolutionary but it can never be said enough so if I don't blow you away, it's OK, I didn't really intend to. The history of South Africa is replete with violence and injustice- we don't even have to go as far as the former regime to see's part of our daily lives. We are all prisoners of a society that kills, rapes, maims, steals, vandalises, and hits at will- it seems like there is no limit to the extremity of violence that perpetuates itself in South Africa. This is definitely not a novel phenomenon and it can be attributable to (amongst others) the socio-economic conditions in which the majority of the population finds itself but that still does not make it right or subject to sympathy. If there's anything that everybody agrees on (accept a few privileged who seem to have their heads permanently in the sand) it's the fact that the levels of crime in this country are frightfully high and the methods used unnaturally violent and merciless. Which is quite sad because we have one of the most inclusive and liberal Constitutions in the world which makes provisions for just about everything under the sun and which cradles a Bill of Rights that makes the Framers of the American constitutions and the technocrats of the French Revolution era look like amateurs.

So we have a lot of crime and nobody feels safe anymore which is tragic because one of our basic needs as humans is safety- whether perceived or actual because without it, it is very difficult to execute "normal" human behaviour: to think logically and rationally, to exercise the spirit of uBuntu without being scared of being robbed, to allow your children to have experiences that only life can teach them because our lives are ruled by fear. So what are we going to do about it? How are we going to change this? Crime is amongst the top reasons people are emigrating in their droves and thanks to the unpredictable and intermittent power supply, there is now another list topper. The government has proved that it cannot cope- it has come to the point where people don't believe any of the statistics because reality dictates otherwise. How can anybody accept that residential robberies have decrease 7.9% between 2006 and 2007 when everyday you hear stories of people being held at gun-point in their own houses and their wives or daughters raped brutally right in front of their eyes. It has come to the point where we are immune to feeling sympathetic, instead we contribute with even more gruesome stories of our own or simply say with tired exasperation: "this country is going to the dogs" and continue making our 5th cup of coffee for the morning. More and more people are getting firearm licenses and more sophisticated alarm systems because we have resigned ourselves to the fact that the government doesn't know how or doesn't have the capacity to or just plain doesn't want to deal with crime so it is each man for himself- it is about flight or flight and really nothing to do with vigilantism.

It is obvious that our justice and legal system is failing us in this regard. There is an absolute disregard for the law in South Africa and it doesn't just start and end with crime- just look at recent traffic speed offences and the dubious manners in which social grants, housing and drivers licenses are being acquired. It is almost natural for us to disregard our laws because we have a perceived immunity to them...but is it really perceived or are we merely acting out the examples that are given to us by those in power? I am sure that I do not need to name any names but a certain Health Minister allegedly drank while in hospital with liver problems but miraculously managed to get a liver transplant while thousands are on the waiting list. Another top official was implicated in shady discounted cars deals but was released before serving his full sentence. I am sure you get the point because there are many examples that I can cite but my point is, how is society motivated to follow rules when some are exempt or treated favourably because of their office. It is also important to note that these people who are given favourable treatment are Civil SERVANTS. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines servant as thus: "one that serves others." We have definitely been served!

So it's like this- presently, there is lawlessness because the Rule of Law is an optional composition of our democracy. There is no incentive to follow the Law of the Land nor is there much disincentive to do crime because the best way to judge a society is how it treats its prisoners. The prisoners are our leaders and they are treated very well- why rough it out on the outside when you can have free medical treatment, free meals, free education and a beer or two in jail?

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