Sunday, March 30, 2008

Is South African violence the thin end of the wedge for the rest of the world?

It's not difficult tying the violence we see in South Africa to the horrific upbringings many poor kids have in South African townships.

But to think that our problems with violence are unique is to ignore the growing trend of mob mad kids in the UK, US, etc. Whether it's the uprisings against Lebanese in Sydney, the anarchy on the streets of Paris, or the kid who makes a UK teacher's work impossible, The kids aren't alright as The Offspring song goes.

Read the horrific article in today's Sunday Times about the chav kid mobs in the UK who are running amok and beating adults to a pulp.

Are we headed for a Lord of the Flies culture? The problem is global. And the solution is not locking up a lost generation as is happening in the US and UK. Certainly many kids are monsters and possibly beyond redemption. They belong in jail.

But ultimately, we have to intervene to ensure no parents are allowed to create psychopathic monsters. How do you do that? Prophylactic injections to stop people convicted of domestic violence from having kids? Reworking social welfare to incentivize fewer and not more kids? Better institutions for orphans?

With an estimated 2 million aids orphans in the care of relative or village elders in South Africa, it is not difficult to see why we are not different, merely worse off.

The Kids Aren't Alright - The Offspring

When we were young the future was so bright (whoa)
The old neighborhood was so alive (whoa)
And every kid on the whole damn street (whoa)
was gonna make it big in every beat.

Now the neighborhood's cracked and torn (whoa)
The kids are grown up but their lives are worn(whoa)
How can one little street
Swallow so many lives?

Chances thrown
Nothing's free
Longing for
What used to be
Still it's hard
Hard to see
Fragile lives
Shattered dreams


Jamie had a chance, well she really did (whoa)
Instead she dropped out and had a couple of kids (whoa)
Mark still lives at home cause he's got no job (whoa)
Just plays guitar, smokes a lot of pot

Jay commited suicide (whoa)
Brandon OD'd and died (whoa)
What the hell is going on?
Cruelest dream reality

Chances blown, nothing's free
Longing for what used to be
Still, it's hard, hard to see
Fragile lives, shattered dreams


Chances blown, nothing's free
Longing for what used to be
Still, it's hard, hard to see
Fragile lives, shattered dreams

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Is Zuma our OJ Simpson?

Not for the first time, I was reminded today of the parallels between Zuma in South Africa with OJ Simpson in the States.

I read the rather excellent Guardian piece reprinted in the Mail and Guardian.

The psychology behind popular black support for heroes on trial by what is seen as white establishment is obvious. It is the same warped sense of indentity that causes otherwise reasonable whites to support a white Skierlik murderer or a depraved set of white boys making fun of black workers old enough to be their parents in their Reitz hostel video.

The Guardian article says of the original OJ Simpson Los Angeles trial: "The trial became less about the killings and more about a city's terrible relations with its black population. Occurring not long after the Rodney King riots of 1992, Simpson became a symbol for black power in the face of white authority."

It is not difficult to understand the support for Zuma of those with nothing to lose in South Africa on similar grounds. To them, he represents the black masses marginalised by first the whites and then the connected black elite who appear to have got rich with little regard for those who put them in power. Zuma's guilt of rape or corruption is secondary to the symbolism of taking back power by those in the majority.

This is of course alarming to those who somehow avoid the politics of race and condemn equally the crimes of those who commit them. The reality of a justice blind to race and popularity seems endangered - if it ever existed. The inequality of its application under apartheid would suggest not, and that it is rather an aspiration people hoped for in 1994.

The tale of OJ Simpson offers hope to those. The Gaurdian states: "There has been a fundamental shift in racial attitudes to Simpson. Once, 71% of black Americans believed he was innocent. That's fallen to 40%. It is likely to have collapsed further in the wake of his book. 'A lot of black people have changed their minds. Afterwards he did not try to reach out to them. He just moved to Florida and played golf,' says Manny Otiko, a black cartoonist and comedian."

Already it seems Zuma's support has questioned his willow-bend-in-the-wind poltical posturing.

Perhaps we too are moving towards a day where voters will choose between a woman and a black man based on issues rather than a left / right split.