On violence in South Africa

Last year on Facebook, I engaged in a discussion with a friend about the fact that violent acts seem to be the norm to make people notice things, in place of that time-worn cliché of “rational discussion”.

While my response does refer directly to South Africa, in hindsight it could apply elsewhere.

Here it is, unedited.

It’s too soon to grow as a culture, because it’s only been 22 years since a naive government took over, with zero experience, and as expected, became corrupt (and it wasn’t a better government before it either, so we are clear). It happens everywhere, across the ages.

It’s been less than a generation. There’s no way in that short a time you can expect a major shift in culture, especially after making it legal to be racist. That’s a lot of cultural memory that needs to fade first.

That’s why I said way back in 1994, it’s going to take 50-60 years to sort itself out, for a distinct South African culture to develop. White people are still taking sides based on the Anglo-Boer War, for goodness sake.

We all want to see “progress” (i.e. non-violent protest, rational debate, equality for all), and progress is being made, but it’s happening on a different time scale to human experience. If things still haven’t settled down in another 30-35 years, then let’s talk again about what to do about it.

Meanwhile, a lot of expensive colonial artefacts are going to be set alight. Take photos of them while you still can. We can rebuild later, once we’ve addressed the grotesque inequalities in South Africa, including access to running water, electricity and free education.

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