Violence and South Africa
South Africa couldn’t be more set up for violence if it was actually done on purpose.
We have high income inequality coupled with a strong financial black market preying on our poor. One of the early things the investigation into the Marikana mine massacre found was that most of the microlenders in the area didn’t appear to be operating legally.
That means a lot of people get their bank accounts drained by parasites, which means perpetual poverty traps because the loan sharks eat the workers’ increases.
Our education department is a mess, only 28.4 percent of South Africans have matric. With lesser education not only are our learners more vulnerable to those loan sharks and con-artists, but they are also trapped with lower starting incomes.
What happens when you corner just about any living thing? It tries to fight its way out, and our workers are being cornered.
And we keep getting more violent because there is a psychological effect that takes place in all of us called precedence. If you do something bad once and get away with it, it becomes easier to do it again.
Violence has been a part of our labour culture for decades now, so much so that when people wearing black shirts went after Cosatu members wearing red they didn’t even think of what they were doing as violence.
They didn’t think stripping Cosatu members of their shirts and burning those shirts was violence, yet under every legal system I can think of that would be considered assault.
Think about how Cosatu treated that DA march on their offices – that was simply the precedent that had long been set by prior actions, being reinforced.
Now consider what it means when you add on top of this, the fact that about 1.3 million South Africans don’t have access to piped water. Industrial pollution in our water is still a very real, and very current problem for us.
We as a country cannot afford any additional factors to make us angrier and more violent. We do not have a powder keg here; we have dynamite in a kindergarten where every kid has been equipped with matches.
We don’t need those kids to be suffering from lead poisoning, which has been directly linked to childhood delinquency.
Our problem with violence is not insoluble; it is not something which means we are doomed as a country. We are violent because we are angry, and we are angry because we want change.
We just need to take that step between wanting change, and changing things. It is not our anger that is the problem, given what our country faces anger is the rational response, but that we aren’t channelling it towards better ends.
The equation doesn’t have to be that we are angry, and thus we become violent.
Anger is a positive force – it is an active force for change. If left uncontrolled it changes things for the worse, but it can be channelled to make things better. If we have the energy to destroy each other in violence, we have more than enough energy to lift ourselves out of it.
That means we need to start identifying the things that are actually making us angry, start figuring out what it is about South Africa that needs fixing, and fixing it.
We know we don’t like where we are right now – but we also know that everything that makes us worse can make us better. The effect of precedent is not just on bad things we can become better people by doing good things.
And maybe, once we are done angrily improving our situation we will be able to look around and see, there just isn’t that much left to be angry about anymore.