Outside Looking In

When you are on the outside looking in, all you can do is ...look.(This photo is used under the Creative Commons license: Creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/posted by fdtate.

When you are on the outside looking in, all you can do is …look.(This photo is used under the Creative Commons license: Creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/posted by fdtate.

In the week that Oscar Pistorius has dominated all forms of media, one is tempted to go against the grain and write about life, you know, the other thing that’s happening outside the High Court in Pretoria. Just in case I come across as insensitive let me declare right now that I have given my views about Reeva Steenkamp’s tragic death, and those have not changed in the period leading up to “the biggest trial since OJ Simpson’s trial”. Those views are not dependent on whether the Blade Runner is found innocent or guilty at the end of his trial.

Right then, moving right along. Have you ever felt like there is a bigger struggle going on out there and for some reason you are only on the periphery, looking in, a little bemused at times but keeping a not-so-interested-but-interested eye on things? Ok, so it never happens to you? It happens to me all the time.

I think I’ve declared on this blog that I’m a Christian. Only I’m one of of those Christians who really get bothered when people want to justify their bigotry through their beliefs. So when Uganda played the ultra-Christian card and made homosexuality punishable by death I got that feeling that I was telling you about. The whole world was condemning their move but it felt as though I’m standing outside looking in, powerless to shout “No! Jesus never commissioned us to murder others!”.

If he had, then I would find it very hard to leave out the thieves and the murderers and the gossips and those that steal from the poor(Mugabe and Museveni included). In fact, we would have a hanging orgy. But then again, like I said, I feel like an outsider looking in, powerless to stop the insults aimed at the objects of this sexually-holier-than-thou crusade.

This feeling is not entirely different from the one I get when I’m told that big multinationals in the oil space are busy pestering the South African government for the rights to prospect for shale gas in the Karoo, which could just be the key to the solution of our unemployment problem. I feel powerless because it was multinationals that mined the gold out of our abundantly rich gold mines and left our young government with an acid mine drainage problem so big that it threatens all our water resources.

These multinationals have to be begged and threatened to resolve an environmental problem which is entirely of their own making. I know, I know, you think the oil companies are not the same with the mining companies. Well,pull the other one! A multinational is a multinational. They come in, extract the most profits they can whilst they can and leave when they can’t maximize profits anymore. Our beautiful Karoo is under threat. That helpless feeling in me multiplies when I think of the lengths to which these companies will go to gain their rights to plunder our resources and leave us feeling used. It’s a fracking problem if you ask me.

This was the same feeling I got when His Holiness The Dalai Lama was refused entry into South Africa a few years ago. One of the most wonderful lessons Mandela taught us was that we should never let anyone tell us who our friends must be. He famously refused to cancel a meeting with Gaddafi on his release from prison, and refused to shun Fidel Castro when the West demanded, famously quipping: ” when the West were labeling us terrorists, these are the only people who called us friends, the West cannot choose our friends for us”.

I was left feeling like an outsider looking in when our government let China dictate whether The Dalai Lama could be our friend or not. The West can’t choose our friends for us but the East can? The feeling was almost sickening because this was a principle we had fought hard for. “You can do business with us but our souls are not for sale”.

Now there are murmurs that basic Mandarin could be introduced into our primary school education system, what gives? Are we allowing the Chinese to be the New West in exchange for what, a few jobs? Imperialism is imperialism wherever it comes from.

This feeling, the one of a powerless outsider looking in also threatens to overcome me when the powers that be pass very suspicious legislation on our behalf in the name of protecting state information. The Protection of State Information Bill that seeks to deny even journalists the right to protection when they publish information in the public interest got very little resistance from Joe Public.

Internationally Wikileaks and Edward Snowden had set the stage for us to vigorously defend the right of citizens to open democracy, but locally some in our midst defended the right of the state to do things in secret in the name of protecting the State. It wasn’t so long ago that government set up hit squads, police torture farms and other clandestine operations under the guise of protecting state information. The zeal with which the newly formed ‘security cluster’ has gone about defending indefensible acts by Number 1 leaves no doubt in my mind that given a chance, ‘state information’ would be protected by any means necessary, jail and torture if they deemed it fit.

I’m left feeling like an outsider looking in when thousands of people across the globe are waging struggles against environmentally harmful practices and all we can do is host the odd conference on global warming but carry on with life as usual. And then we wonder why Africa’s voice is still largely ignored. Fighting for our right to be heard on the international stage means fighting to stay prominent on all issues affecting our world.

That despondency feeling grows a little worse when I hear a head of state heap insults on a western leader in the name of Pan Africanism. Remember when Tony Blair was told to keep his Britain and “I’ll keep my Zimbabwe”? A lot of “Pan Africanists” applauded his statements. With Pan Africanism having morphed to mean anything that’s anti-West even demagogues who plunder their countries and cling onto power are now regarded as Pan African heroes.

I too detested Blair, the “creator” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But for a head of sovereign state to engage in public insults makes me feel despondent about the kind of leadership he exercises over his own country. The very same Pan African leader waits for France and the rest of the West to take action over strife in an African country, the Central African Republic.

A lot of things happen in the world when one is busy trying not to notice, one only needs to choose what to get worked up by.


12 responses

  1. It can get to be so depressing, can’t it? I get infuriated by some of the things that go on here in the States, then I realize that ‘this too shall pass’. Doesn’t really help, though. Stupid people are stupid. Until enough of us are ready and willing to stand up and say, “Enough, all ready!”, things will not change. I keep hoping that there really is a ‘tipping point’, but it’s not looking good so far.


    1. Thank you so much for reading, much appreciated. Yes, you are right, it can get so depressing because looking at what’s going on you would think we would have reached some sort of tipping point, where even the bad ones realize we’ve just been plain selfish but I keep coming back to the same conclusion, as long as there is money to be made out of any situation, the tipping point will keeping moving further on until we get a “meltdown” and everybody suffers. But I remain hopeful.

      I laughed out aloud reading “stupid people are stupid”. It’s the truth.


  2. allen myakayaka | Reply

    You hit the nail on the head. To show that we have lost pperspective as to what is wrong and rightt see the election lists that will be released by political parties. In addition, in leadership we no longer put people for their qualities but because they are closer to so & so. Every little thing people do first they look for own benefit. As for selling our country that transaction was concluded long time ago


    1. Ally, I woke up to news of election lists including people who have lied to parliament being top of the lists of those returning to parliament and I get that sinking feeling again. We are selling our resources to the highest bidder and life just goes on. I have some hope though, that as long as we keep raising the issues, something is bound to give at some point.


  3. Reblogged this on bagofbrains and commented:
    One of the best ones. You’ve got to read this one


  4. I am sharing it right away on my wordpress site. And on Facebook. This is the best one from you until now. I loved the way this blog is written.


  5. Wonderful article, Syd! As is so often the case, I agree whole heartedly. The number of very real crises occurring at any given time, and the seeming lack of viable solutions, can be entirely overwhelming.


    1. Thank you for reading Brandee, as always. Because of the seeming lack of viable solutions most people are advocating for a revolution. I’m not too keen on that unless the end product is clear and well-defined. My hopes we quite high when the Arab spring was in progress, but I look back now and all I see is confusion or more of the same in those countries.


  6. Too true. You have to choose your battles wisely. There are plans for fracking here, too and I don’t trust those companies any more than you do. Anyway, how is it such a good idea to produce yet MORE fossil fuels? Shouldn’t we be spending that time and energy perfecting and putting in place alternatives? Many of these problems are linked – we’re told we can’t find out information about multinationals because it’s confidential, everything is secret, governments are overly influenced by big companies. It’s all a big mess.


    1. So true Heidi, governments the world over are in the pockets of the multinationals, and the lines are completely blurred. Who would have thought that a “government of the people, by the people and for the people” would need water-tight legislation to hide stuff from the people. I don’t want to sound ignorant, but when it comes to fracking the last thing our government should be doing is concluding deals in secret but putting all their cards on the table for all to see. Letting “the people” decide on the issue.


  7. So true. So many burning issues. Our attention is captured by one issue while others pass unnoticed though they have much greater impact.

    This is a great inventory of issues that must be debated. It seems that we all agree here that the debates and negotiations must be as public as possible, not in hiding to protect (fill in the blank).

    How can we sort out these issues to deal with them effectively? I agree that we must make sure that “the end product is clear and well-defined”. When we see that, then the next step on the way there is often clear.

    This is great at stirring us up to re-evaluate our targets.


  8. Thank you for reading Grace, it is true, when there are so many issues going on some clarity is required on the ultimate goal of whatever we engage in. It is tempting to have an interest in everything, but in the end, what matters is that one’s contribution is meaningful in whatever chosen issue.


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