Christina Engela's picture

X Spots The Mark

On Saturday I was at a canvassing table in my voting district, asking people to sign a petition against the governments proposed new legislation which will gag the media. Surprisingly, a broad base of people of every language, race and political affiliation, signed the petition and commented freely about how bad this law would be for everyone. This was encouraging, but what still shocked me though, was the number of people who just waved me off - or laughed, as if there was something actually funny in asking people to exercise their democratic right and sign a petition against something which would strip them of their freedom to access information.

"I don't do politics" one smart looking dude told me. "But politics will do you!" I replied, while he and his girlfriend stared at me as though I were from another planet.

Others commented about what a rush their Saturday morning was, that they "didn't have time" and how much more important that rush to buy a loaf of bread or bottle of milk at the store was than securing their democratic freedom to an independent Press. In fact, I wonder if any of them even knew what "freedom of the Press" even means, even after taking pains to translate it for them. Others said they would come back later, or just said "not now" - prompting me to think that they would probably worry about their civil rights AFTER they have lost them, which makes no sense, does it? Yes, laugh about it - politics is "uncool", isn't it? Laugh it up, folks- but will you still be laughing on the other side? I hope we don't have to find out.

And some of them will definitely sit on the side lines, or in front of the idiot box, being fed only good news, as they do in the Arab countries - asking out loud why "somebody" didn't do something. Needless to say, this ignorant, condescending "don't be silly, why should I give a flying fuck about my (or your) civil rights" attitude frustrated me to the nth degree. After all, how dare I bother them to protect their own democratic protections, "what's wrong with me" that I take this move to take away my right to know what's going on in the world around me seriously, and don't want to go through life oblivious to reality? Couldn't I see the lovely pair of blinkers they were wearing? Very cool. No actually, I couldn't - because their heads were stuck so far up their own asses they disappeared from the neck up. Grr.
Christina Engela's picture

Puppet Electorate

Something is still really wrong with our democracy in South Africa. The poorest of the poor are still intimidated into voting for particular parties - being told that their homes will be burned to the ground if they do not vote a particular way - little realizing that their ballots are secret. They believe this, and so the vote generally does go a certain way.

Intimidation is as much a part of a real democracy as is an ignorant voter - not at all.

I think our country is very young in terms of understanding democracy as a concept. I think the broader populace, having been oppressed so long, have only the idea that democracy meant them being in charge, being able to just make decisions for others and rolling over them regardless of what they have to say about it. The concept of a Constitution just means a set of guidelines that can be changed to suit them whenever they are found to be inconvenient. I think they have confused the idea of democracy with mob-rule, and if you look at the internal politics of their tripartite alliance, that is exactly what you will see in play.
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