Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Smoke and Mirrors

South Africa is sitting on a precipice. Not since at least the early 90's, more probably the 1950's have we been so close to falling to a certain doom (noting that in the 50's we did fall.) It seems the ordinary folk of our beloved nation fail to comprehend the precariousness of our position. State capture is far more serious than most believe, in fact, academics have described the related events as a 'soft coup'. We are becoming more and more a dictatorship, a monarchy disguised as a democracy. Yet despite the dire situation we find ourselves in, with a moral-less ruling party, rampant corruption and one family slowly taking control of all our supposedly democratic institutions, far too much of our time, attention and media coverage is devoted to a non-issue: race.

Do not mistake me, I do not refute that this is a sensitive issue, nor seek to undermine the gross injustices of our past, but today's racial issues are but squabbles among siblings compared to the world war of apartheid. Take for example the Helen Zille Twitter row. I can only imagine that great struggle icons like Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, who fought real racism and oppression, would be turning in their graves to see the reaction of their once great organisation to a couple of vague remarks that at a push could branded insensitive. It is frankly ridiculous that Zille's tweets have received exponentially more attention than situations that are actually going to have a real impact on the lives of ordinary South Africans, like the appointment of Gupta-servant Brian Molefe to parliament, or the Gupta take over of the SABC, or Eskom, or who knows how many other state institutions. It's simply a matter of priorities, and ours are all mixed up.

So why do we harp on about race then? Why does every unsavoury interaction between individuals with racial differences become a racist event? Why are hours of conversation time on 702 and other radio stations devoted to discussing this, the least of our worries as a nation? First, like I said, race is a sensitive topic, so racialised news is sensationalist. It grabs our attention and makes us angry. For some reason we want to be angry. It is an unhealthy fetish. The second reason is far more dangerous and builds on the sensationalism of the first: that is that it is a powerful distraction. It is a powerful distraction for Zuma, while he plunges the country into crisis. It is a powerful distraction for the Guptas whilst they systematically take control of our state institutions. It is a powerful distraction for the ANC while it buys time to find a solution to it's lack of moral leadership. It is a powerful tool in diverting our attention from the real dangers we face as a country.

What is most worrying is that people still buy this narrative, despite it having been exposed, most notably through the Bell Pottinger revelations. It reveals a great flaw in our human nature, that we are more likely to believe what we want to be true than what is actually true. It lays bare our inability to think critically and illustrates the lack of access many have to opposing view points. The crisis we need to solve as a country is not a race crisis. It is an education crisis. It is an unemployment crisis. It is a state-capture crisis. It is a governmental over-reach crisis. And ultimately, it is a freedom crisis.

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