There is something that makes me ashamed to be a South African and it’s pretty difficult to peg down in words. For me it’s a virtual line in the sand, a moral line that I will not cross. It’s some kind of inherent understanding of what is right and wrong. I do not believe that it’s something you learn in a book but it is something that us humans are born with and is nurtured by our parents, leaders and environments. It is deep in us as a species, a community of like creatures. I’m sure someone far more cerebral has coined a name for it, but I’m going to call it a Higher Human Instinct. It’s what separates us from the animals and raises us beyond the base instincts of survival of the fittest. It’s like a code of honour us humans have realised we need to live by or we become nothing more than the animals some of us eat and we would otherwise be unable to live and prosper together. I believe that this moral code has and is disappearing from ‘average’ South Africa and I loathe to be lumped in the same boat as some of its citizens. (you many not want to read the rest).
It may not seem like it sometimes, but we are not living in the dark ages any more. We are meant to be civilised human beings yet it seems that people here have lost any understanding of right and wrong. I am not talking about laws (lets not go there right now), I am talking about basic fundamental morals and respect for life.
Why would any modern human think that assaulting a child in the worst possible way would cure them of an incurable disease? Surely that’s the action of a superstitious Neanderthal race, long since made extinct?
Playing devils advocate, even if this were the cure, who would chose to commit this kind of Evil on a totally innocent child who, in some cases, is too young to even speak or walk. Education level aside, a normal human being should not want to do this to another. It is beyond a sickness or moment of madness. Is a fear of dying slowly so great that inflicting this atrocity is justified. Playing devils advocate even more, would I cross this line? Would I kill someone to protect my own? Yes. Would I take the life of someone else to save the threatened life of my child? Yes. Would I knowingly take the life of / or harm an innocent person in this way to prolong my own existence? Never.
Taking another example, finding a newborn floating in a stream or leaving a child murdered hanging in a tree or poisoning yet more because, well, who knows the reasons; maybe crying at 3 am. Kids killing their friends over a playground slight, teenage boys raping other children and offing parents because they just thought it fun. I could go on, but I am sure you get the picture and truth be told I am getting uncomfortable just writing these few examples and there are plenty more. New ones every day.
It is never easy to follow a code, especially an honourable one, as it has to be black and white without any grey and the real world is very very grey 99% of the time. I have always fantasised that I would have done better as a Knight or Samurai in the distant past when living by a strict code carried with it more weight than it does today. In the real world, my devils advocate arguments above can easily be twisted and turned until even I, with my seemingly rigid code, will struggle to answer, but there are some fundamental things that us humans should not do and barring some psychos on death row somewhere, I hope few people would disagree.
So why does there seem like the moral line has been erased from South Africans?
Is it because children are growing up without family units, looked after by children only a little older than themselves? Little Lords of the Flys with no elders to look up to and no-one to instruct the next generation on how to behave in a civilised world? What happens when these children grow up to be adults?
Is it because the last generation has grown up with community and country leaders who, most will agree, are dubious examples of individuals children would normally want to aspire to be? I bet you very few children in South Africa want to grow up to be the President. Hold on, maybe I have it wrong… they DO want to be the President because if he can do whatever he likes then its right for them. If he spends the money that would have helped them get an proper education on his retirement home then why should they go to school? If he says having a shower after ‘consensual’ sex is what you do to prevent AIDS, then maybe they think that’s the correct way to behave? If the Police Chief is jailed for organised crime but then released to live, better than most South Africans, as he sees fit at home for the remainder of his years, then why should they obey the laws if the highest authority has a Monopoly Card? If a government minister can have take-out every day (while children go hungry) at the taxpayers expense then hey, maybe all these children want to grow up to be just like her so that they can have their KFC value meal. If you can get away with murder, rape, robbery and everything else just because of who you know and because nothing will happen to you, then why the hell not aspire to be just like those shining examples of adulthood.
Is it because traditional values and cultures have been roughshod over by the modern world and little value is placed on the things that we as children were taught? I’m not even talking about the big things like the value of human life… The little things, on which the bigger ones rest. Being polite, saying please and thank you. Waiting your turn. Sharing. Respecting others. Cleaning your room, washing the dishes, doing your homework. Keeping your promises. Those seemingly silly little things that we all try to drum into our kids because that was how we were taught and know is how people get on with each other in the world.
Maybe I am being too hard on the locals… perhaps this is a modern problem experienced all over the world and I just don’t have the detail. Sure there is violence and there always will be people reminding the world that it will never be a peaceful utopia, but even in that, there is a line that should never be crossed, like the unwritten one enforced by inmates on child molesters. That line that we all know but more and more people seem to find easy to ignore.
Living here in South Africa and reading the true Evil* in the paper each day sometimes makes me want to vomit. Like John Coffey spewing up the sickness of the world in the Green Mile. Sure, the papers promote the sensationalist news but when it’s in your face each and every day you can’t help to think that maybe the papers don’t have to look very hard or far to find the stories that shock us to the core and maybe for once, they are painting a ghastly picture of life that is not far from truth.
Sorry for imagery and dark thoughts this post may invoke, but sometimes you just have to have your say. I have no answers or solution, perhaps someone has. They say Evil thrives when good men do nothing, and I do sometimes wish that there was something I could do but just trying to protect my own and make sure they rise above this is hard enough.
* I may not believe in religion or any deity but I do believe in the general concepts of Good & Evil.
Image cropped (without permission) from one by http://www.flickr.com/photos/egansnow/