I love the poetry of Robert Frost. Somehow he just gets it! Whether he is talking about life and taking ‘the road less travelled’ to experience the difference that has made, or whether he is commenting about the idiocy of man who believes without question in the prejudices he has acquired in his childhood. Frost clearly understands the human psyche.
Now it’s a big jump from Frost and walls to the ridiculous situation where we find ourselves in South Africa today – or is it? I have watched with interest over the past while as an election looms and the present incumbents are playing very interesting games to ensure themselves of re-election.
But before I get side-tracked, take a step back with me to the approval of our Constitution in 1996. Internationally acclaimed as a visionary and progressive document, it enshrined the concept of human rights. A government that had emerged from the rigid Apartheid era was determined to see equality for all and ensured that the rights of minorities were safeguarded.
So why is it that eighteen years after our first democratically elected government took power, we are looking at a very different scenario? Two weeks ago all hell broke loose when a satirical painting depicting our president taking up a stance much like the famous one of Lenin ( but with his genitals exposed) became the focal point for incredible racial tension. The powers that be decided that this was a racial slur upon a leader; that his dignity had been impugned and that not only should the painting be removed from the gallery where it had been hanging, but the courts were called in to have its image removed from the website of the newspaper that had taken it upon themselves to report on this matter.
The artist in question was declared persona non grata despite the fact that his brand of satirical work had been employed most effectively by them in anti-government propaganda items while the previous regime had been in power. The gallery owner was made to offer a public apology for daring to show the painting and much was made in parliament recently about freedom of expression not being a more important right than the right to dignity.
Add to all this the hotly debated ‘Suppression of Information’ Bill earlier this year, which threatens to put a muzzle on the press and I am left shaking my head and wondering with George Orwell whether some animals are not after all ‘more equal than others’.
Are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past as we refuse to get rid of the walls that separate us? Will we continue to mouth blithely that ‘good fences make good neighbours’ while, in fact, not seeing that we just don’t know how to allow those who are different from us to simply live?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )