Living In Interesting Times

Christina Engela's picture

A few thousand years ago the Chinese developed a saying that went "May you live in interesting times". This is, believe it or not, intended as a curse, not a blessing. By "interesting times" of course, they meant that by looking at history, it is the eras of peace which are most dull and uneventful - and the chapters of violence, war and chaos, the more interesting to read.

With natural disasters and the collapse of tyrannical rulers and their regimes progressing in a kind of tsunami in the Middle East, the changes in Egypt, the civil war in Libya, the other threatening revolutions in various exotic places and the disaster in Japan, our times appear to be most interesting indeed, and looking to be more so each week.

Wow what an interesting few weeks this has been in South Africa.

I'm proud that South Africa went to the aid of Japan, and I'm proud of the people who went into dangerous places no-one else would venture in order to rescue the living and recover the dead, and to make things better for a stricken people. Seeing things like that show me there is a spirit of humanity - called ubuntu here - that runs through this nation, regardless of race, color or creed - and yet our country is such a paradox when dealing with our own natural diversities. I felt proud too, when South Africa supported the most recent UN Statement last week, but that unfortunately was short-lived.

First, Mr Gay SA won Mr Gay World, for the second time running since South Africa began participating in the international contest two years ago - also winning the right to host the next Mr Gay World in Johannesburg in 2012 - and our entire community got a complete flat ignore by 99.9 percent of the straight media, despite letters asking the media to cover the event, and complaints that the straight media did not report the win. On Wednesday, only two straight media bodies made the effort to show up at a press conference held by the organizers. To their credit, they were an ETV news team (who also do news inserts for Kyknet) and Beeld. Aside from the Pink media, broadly speaking, there was a near-total news blackout on the win. Journalists from several newspapers contacted the organizers for interviews, which were given - but the stories never appeared, which makes one wonder why.

The interesting thing is, while articles on the contest were not posted, a few letters by the organizers complaining that the contest received no attention, were posted - and the sheer array of hostile remarks tinted with lunacy, religious fundamentalism and brute ignorance were astonishing. Of course, this indicates the sort of readership of many of these newspapers - and to whom they cater. Printing news about Pink successes on an international scale would be like printing Israeli news in a paper catering for anti-Semites.

Of course, this is a worrying indicator. Originally in 1994 it appeared that English and Afrikaans language newspapers would cease to cater solely for the readership of particular race groups - but despite this change, it appears that a certain part of society is still excluded completely, despite being part of these language groups. The exceptions of course, are when there is a nice fat gossip story involving *gasp* homosexuality, or *shudder* a "tranny" getting fired for changing sex. All too often, the victim gets media treatment to make them look like they "deserved" it. Our community in general only appears to be reflected in the news when there is a negative connotation. There are exceptions of course, but they are few and far between.

Let me just state clearly that I did not oppose the Protection of Information Bill put forward by the Government, which threatens to censor the Media, just so that the very same media I chose to protect from government interference can deliberately exclude items of morale-building and positive value about my community because of its own heterosexist and sectarian religious prejudice.

I will be most interested to see if the SABC will be covering the Mr Gay World event in Johannesburg next year, or if it will be ignored completely as the national competition has been since its inception here. Like I could ask some newspapers whether they are newspapers or church newsletters, I can ask of the SABC - are you a national broadcaster or ruling party news service? Hmm? We are part of this nation, SA Media and Press - and the lack of interest in us and our achievements is an insult and a form of self-imposed censorship.

Parliament was also blocked by several very small religious fundamentalist political parties with exceptionally large chips on their shoulders, from congratulating the organizers and Mr Gay World 2011, Francois Nel. Not that I have heard any of the political parties who wanted to send congratulations doing so independently. I find that rather odd, don't you? Funny thing is, these people will be looking for our votes soon - and then be shocked when we ask them "what have you done for me?".

South African representatives at the United Nations dragged out their refusal to add South African support to a UN statement on opposing violence based on sexual orientation, to the very last moment. South Africa did sign the UN statement, at the last moment, when faced with mounting negative media attention and pressure from human rights advocacy groups who quite rightly pointed out that by refusing to show support, South Africa was working in contravention of its own Constitution.

In the days before they eventually signed, the South African government had the nerve to issue a statement accusing those who are raising awareness of this betrayal, of being "a misinformation campaign", as South Africa "fully supports" the human rights clauses in the Constitution - and that South Africa was working on another alternative to this Statement by the UN. When South Africa signed, incredibly, and at the last minute - many took this as surprising and encouraging news, only to be disappointed and shamed by our government yet again.

Next, we discovered what this "alternative" was when South Africa made a proposal to the UN which would undo decades of hard work by human rights groups and essentially segregate Pink human rights from the actual concept of mainstream human rights. This action would allow countries which wish to abuse the human rights of their Pink communities and to persecute them, the freedom to do so - because the UN would be too bogged down in an endless circular debate and legal technicalities while trying to "clarify" known and generally clearly understood terms such as "sexual orientation" - which are included in the South African Constitution. These terms would essentially be divorced from the global description of human rights, preventing UN action on human rights abuses directed against people on the basis of something which would no longer count under human rights.

Some people have called me an "alarmist" in the past, but if you look at my articles written on this topic over the last three years, I think you will see that in the long run my logic and deduction has been sound.

If you look at the Stanton Report - the "8 stages of genocide" presented to the US State Department by Genocide Watch in 1996, Stage 1: Classification - describes how people are divided into "us and them". Gay and transgender people are purposefully separated from the mainstream society. One need only look at the rhetoric and vitriol from most African states who claim that homosexuality and transgender are "un-African" and even "inhuman" for some red flags to go up at this attempt to redefine sexual orientation and gender identity as not being human rights. I wrote about the Stanton Report in detail in January last year. I would say it is up for debate on which stage this action forms a part of, but I'm seeing correlations with several of them - Stage 3: Dehumanization looks very fitting - "One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases."

Of course, it occurs to me that if this obscenity passes, what would prevent the government of this country from amending the Constitution, or simply repealing Act No 4 of 2000 - our current protection against hate speech and incitement to commit violence - on the grounds that the term "sexual orientation" is invalid and not recognized by the UN? Since Act No 4 was designed to fill gaps left in the SA Constitution - and is not actually part of the Constitution, what would prevent the Government from terminating it? I'm not a legal or Constitutional expert, but that seems to be a fairly logical outcome to me.

One would expect a country governed by people who experienced for so long the pain of segregation and oppression of one by another to have learned from the mistakes of the past - instead of striving continually to repeat them.

Uganda appears this week to have killed the Bill that would have instituted a veritable Pink genocide. The Kill the Gays Bill - Killed. Not because it's the right thing to do, but because "the West won't give us any more money if we don't". The "morality" of some "Christians" is astounding. Or should I say, the lack of it. Oh well, I'm glad it's been killed at the source. Now let's see how they rework existing legislation to include portions of the Bill into the already draconian anti-gay laws - or resurrect it again in a few months time... That's right, I'm a cynic.

Ugandan Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko in a statement to Uganda's NTV this week claimed that 95% of Ugandans "do not support homosexuality". So sorry to disappoint him, but not every straight person hates us Pink folks, and we make up AT LEAST 10% of any given general population. Either he is purposely skewing the figures, or like his regime, he doesn't view Pink Ugandans as Ugandans - let alone worthy of human rights.

As far as I'm concerned the USA should declare the group bearing primary responsibility for this charade in Uganda - "the Family" - a misnomer if ever there was one, a terrorist organization and arrest all its members and charge them with crimes against humanity and conspiracy to commit genocide.

This opinion of mine extends to groups like Exodus International and Narth who cheerfully incited the Ugandan hate into a mob foaming at the mouth and then reacted with surprise when they realized with a shock they were facing blame for inspiring a genocide. Of course such action is unlikely if you consider that according to this article, the US government appears to have many of "The Family's" members among them. What is it with the West these days and this conservative BS and fanaticism and hatred masquerading as Christianity and morality? If they keep at it any longer they may as well put up posters of Christ in an SS uniform and be done with it.
A while back I saw the response by the South African government to the complaints against homophobic columnist Jon Qwelane being maintained as SA High Commissioner to Uganda. Qwelane was appointed personally by the President, despite facing charges in the Equality Court on inciting hatred against several minority groups, including race, gender and sexual orientation - although that story also died a quick death in the press. The remarks made by government representatives in defense of Qwelane indicated that no matter what opposition, he would remain in his post. "No matter what opposition"? If that isn't a clue as to how our Government - to which we pay taxes too - sees us, then I don't know what is.
Let's see how the rest of Africa handles Pink human rights if this shameful South African proposal passes at the UN? Let's see what South Africa does if it passes. Incidentally, did you notice the price of getting your South African passport skyrocketed last week from R120 to R400? Interesting, don't you think?
Remember, South Africa was a big supporter of Qadaffi's "United States of Africa" idea back in 2009 - and as anyone should know, such a partnership can only work if all member states share similar policies - and currently South Africa takes a heavy amount of flak from homophobic African states for being the only country on the continent having human rights laws protecting sexual and gender diversity. Draw your own conclusions there. I have.

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