I saw a post on Facebook in which the poster asked what a political party's position was on legalising the drug trade in South Africa. The poster was of the opinion that legalising the trade would make things better and more controllable.
The only thing that legalising this trade in human dignity, suffering and lost lives will help is that the government would be able to claim its share in tax proceeds from the profit made by these obscene monsters masquerading in human form. Something which could explain why law enforcement agencies struggle so to clamp down on this dangerous and illegal trade in the first place – corruption.
Speaking as someone who has lost close friends to the drug trade, I feel abusers should be treated like victims, not criminals – they should be hospitalised or institutionalised and rehabilitated as far as possible. The traffickers and manufacturers and those who benefit financially from the trade should be dealt with in much harsher terms by the justice system – in such a way as to make the risks of being caught unacceptable to them. Making a problem like this legal will not help the situation. People will still fall victim to this trade, lives will still be ruined, people will still die. To kill this plant, you need to strike at the root.
Then we get to political parties and supporters. Most people will support a political party because they agree with the principles it stands for. Most people will support a party because it stands for freedom, justice, democratic and capitalist ideals and equal human rights values - or the opposite, of course. Yes, naturally you do find parties like that – and idiots who will actually support them, either because their parents did and they are too lazy to think for themselves, or because there are people they don't like very much who they feel would look better under their boots.
I happened upon a debate about the recent poster advertising campaign by the DA in which a white man and a black woman are shown embracing each other naked. Some people apparently still think like they did back in the 1980s, the way PW Botha and his predecessors taught them to, and have completely failed to evolve in the intervening 30-year period – and cannot think past their racist and nationalist programming.
I say this with conviction, because one guy commented, "I reside in Bothasig and have been talking to quite a few people re this very issue. Most are disgusted, to say the least. I was a DA supporter ... but I have to back down from voting DA from now on – this is totally out of line and not what we voted for. Even in nature animals don't mix and match. I think that many white folk are going to look elsewhere come next elections...” Etc.
This man's comment is just vitriolic. "Not what he voted for?" What did he vote DA for, then? Did he misread the “terms and conditions”? What does he understand by "open and equal opportunity society"? Where is there a clause about racial segregation in the DA manifesto or PR campaigns? Did I miss something? He shouldn't blame the DA for his inability to distinguish the DA from the FF+ or some other little neo-Nazi left-over from the NP days. If he voted DA, then racial equality and freedom to love whom you want to is exactly what he voted for.
This fellow strikes me as the kind who would rather be more comfortable at an AWB gathering, standing under those quaint little flags with propeller motifs, than voting for a political party that supports equal treatment for all people. In fact, such people impress me as the sort who like equality just as long as it is only for themselves and people they like to associate with. Hmm. Funny kind of "equality" that is. Very Republican. Very right-wing and very conservative. What also impresses me about people like that is their insistence that they are not racists. Strange.
Moving on to the last item on my list of weekly rants: the DA's handling of the Occupy movement in the Western Cape. Apparently the DA (hitherto my political party of choice in South Africa) denied the Occupy movement permission to gather peacefully in Cape Town.
I am a person who lives fairly out of the way in my country, South Africa. I live in Port Elizabeth (a place described by 5FM DJ Gareth Cliff as "the armpit of South Africa") and have to admit that very often nothing much happens here. No protests, no marches, no major disturbances. It seems nobody here likes to rock the boat – or to stand out or even be noticed, probably because of the laid-back coastal lifestyle and because it would require far too much effort. In fact, we had our very first ever Pink Community Pride only last year. If you take into account that it's been twenty years since democracy came on to the stage in South Africa you will probably wonder what took so long. After all, armpit or not, PE is the country's fourth largest city. Like I said, laid-back. And often apathetic. Not even the Christianist haters have managed to pull together a protest about anything between abortion and marriage equality. So I shudder to think about calling a protest about anything to do with human rights in this town – mainly because I think I would be there alone, or at the head of a tiny crowd which would be outnumbered by a handful of bored photographers, newspaper reporters – and curious onlookers waiting to see what would have happened to them if they had been part of it.
Like the Occupy movement itself, I would also like to know why? A peaceful protest is surely something that any police department should be able to cope with? After all, the SAPS has clearly demonstrated its ability to deal with the sort of violent protest which happens every other day around the country, with people being arrested, shot and brutalised left and right – with some of them actually being part of the protest. So why? It boggles my mind. It’s about as reasonable as refusing the Dalai Lama entry to South Africa – because then that red phone on the President's desk would start ringing off the hook with calls from Beijing. Who, I wonder, would be on the other end of the line in this case?
The notoriously apathetic-to-human-rights-when-it-suits-them ANC government granted permission to Occupy to hold a peaceful protest in Johannesburg – whereas the Democratic Alliance denied the movement the same courtesy in their own territory – the Republic of the Western Cape.
On the DA's Facebook group wall a supporter of Occupy asked a pertinent question: "If you had to look at the Agenda of Occupy, we have at heart a number of issues the DA wishes to combat too. Why not work with the people?" I have not seen an official response to this question yet, and to be honest, I'm not holding my breath. I doubt many politicians have ever won elections by answering serious and pertinent questions directly and honestly and in a way which makes sense.
Someone else replied: "... 40 protestors are hardly 'the people.'" Interesting point. So we are at a point where numbers define what is right and wrong? A democratic vote is decided by a vote – ie by weight of numbers, yes - but the ideals, values and principles of a democracy are not - and least of all are the defining issues within an "open opportunity society".
Occupy supporters claim that around 2 000 people were prevented by police from reaching the Common, that "even bus drivers" were "pulled from their vehicles" and arrested. It is claimed that while some say the protest consisted of "only 40 people" and the numbers are being obscured (as they are in the USA along with the facts surrounding the Occupy movement and the protests being forcefully broken up there) - because only 42 of the people who made it as far as the Common were arrested, some claiming that police brutality was evident. This is disturbingly similar to reports of what has happened to the Occupy movement in the USA.
What is concerning to me is the lack of support given to the newsworthiness of these issues and especially to incidents of this type. Why do we have to dig and search for information about this stuff when we have a fully functional and developed news reporting network – newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations – and all of them with news websites on the internet? The issues stood for by the Occupy movement directly affect everybody. Do the media think we aren't interested? Is the press already being censored? Has it been all along? What gives?
Friends of mine in the USA have given me eye-witness accounts of peaceful Occupy protests being gassed and violently broken up by armed riot police squads. The press has under-reported the numbers of people attending - and attempts to post videos or pictures have almost always resulted in these being removed. (You wondered about the new "Stop Internet Piracy" laws recently signed into effect, didn't you? You know, the ones giving the US government carte blanche to legally police the internet – freedom of expression and information be damned? Well, now you know.) If the largest supposed “democracy” on the planet can openly and wilfully destroy the constitutional rights of its own citizens, and manipulate public perception and opinion through the legislated abuse of media control – and get away with it - then what hope do we have of inspiring a global public outcry in our own little third-world corner, where people vote X because they fear the government will come and burn down their houses if they don't? Would anyone who tries to do so be squashed like a bug and made to look like the bad guy by whatever mechanisms of the state wield power over the perception of the masses? Duh-duh-dun-dun.
In the end, though, even 40 people are still entitled under the South African Constitution to freedom of expression, the freedom of association and the freedom to gather and to protest peacefully – all rights which they were denied – and by a political party which claims to uphold all of these rights and freedoms. I shudder to think of the mechanism and motives behind such a blatantly (dare I say it) conservative move. (*Gasp*) And I certainly don't like it. In fact, if any of this is true, I am tempted to withdraw my vote come the next election as well - because then there really are no more parties left in the political arena in this country worth bothering with - and the "new South Africa" is a lost cause and a sinking ship.
Taking away people's constitutional or human rights works just like genocide and murder. It doesn't stop being wrong or start being right just because of the number of people it is inflicted upon being greater or lesser, or because of who they are, or because of what they believe.