South Africa is in the grip of 'citizen rage'

04 February 2018 - 00:00 By Bantu Holomisa

Road rage is loosely defined as sudden violent anger provoked in a motorist by the actions of another driver. It seems to me that my beloved country, our beloved country, has become an angry country, a country struggling with "citizen rage".
We have become a people whose first instinct is to throw a stone, verbally or physically. We no longer try to understand what another is saying or doing. Insulting each other has become the norm.
We use labels and stereotypes to pigeonhole and blame each other. If a person of a particular colour or gender does something senseless or wrong in our eyes, we tend to tar everyone of that description with the same brush.
So charged is the general state of things that one can scarcely summarise the reported facts for fear of stoking the fires of intolerance. What is fact to some is fake to others, and anger meets anyone who has a different opinion.In the past few years, we have slowly but surely been sinking deeper and deeper into a culture of mistrust and anger. Instead of working to solve the tensions, we started a fresh new year with clothing retailer H&M offending black people with its "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle" hoodie, and thereafter some young South Africans feeling it was justifiable to damage H&M stores.
We saw, late last year, the sentencing of Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen for forcing Rethabile Mlotshwa into a coffin and threatening to set it alight.
Parents and protesters assault each other at the gates of Hoërskool Overvaal. Citizens take to the streets to demand basic services - these demonstrations more often than not escalate to violence and destruction of property, while the police's response is to pepper protesters with rubber bullets and teargas, as we recently saw in Krugersdorp with a community upset about drug dens and brothels in its neighbourhood.
We see court cases about the language of learning, which some believe is simply another way to enforce exclusivity, while others feel their rights are being trampled on.
An attitude of animosity has captured South Africa. A culture of mistrust, contempt and one-upmanship. A culture of destruction.As with road rage, the frustration and suppressed anger of our people - and this is a universal phenomenon - erupt every now and then like steam under pressure, with worse and more frequent eruptions.
We choose to fight, even in front of our children (as at Hoërskool Overvaal). We fight each other under the ruse that we fight oppression.
We act for personal gain and for the perceived benefit of some group we personally support without a thought for the possible damage we may cause the very people who most need our support.
We no longer engage each other constructively. It is not healthy to suppress our anger, but we must find beneficial ways of expressing our rage.
We must find solutions to relieve the pressure, calm the anger and alleviate the frustration.
As a nation, we have done this successfully in the past. We managed to bring about the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, which taught us that speaking to each other is better than shooting at each other. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission taught us that to bring our grievances out into the open, and to forgive, is better than letting them fester.
We, the people, must take back the promise of 1994. We are not Zulu or Venda, men or women. We are not Catholic or Zionist, Indian or coloured. We are not gay or straight, clever or stupid.

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