Monday, August 23, 2010

Ignorance As A World-view

South Africa is a beautiful country with all sorts of worthwhile natural resources and stunning, sweeping vistas and other interesting stuff that usually makes it onto the back cover of some tourism magazine you might flip through while sitting on the bog - or, as introductions on websites or Facebook groups for conservative political parties which try to sound interesting and aspire to make other people's business, theirs.

Unlike those people, who seem overly concerned about whether other people's kids are taught facts about evolution in schools instead of fantasy and philosophy involving their invisible friends - I don't care to write about how pretty the landscape is, or whether or not the skyline looks like sunset after a bomb went off.

Unlike people who get their knickers in a knot over whether sex education includes "safer sex" instead of "abstinence only" practices (or non-practices, as the case may be) or educates the gay and trans kids as well, without making anyone out to be some kind of threat to religion, the state or "the family" - I really couldn't give a toss what they believe.

Unlike people who define love and marriage by their reproductive potential alone, and how many more children they can bring into the world (because we know the world needs more children, unless they happen to be different) - I certainly don't care about what kind of hardware people who love each other enough to tie the knot are packing down below - or what Jan and Janine Conservative do in the privacy of their own relationships.

For one thing, I think it would be overly boring - and I could guess at what it is they do - what they seem to be so good at - obsessing about us, the diverse population of South Africa - the people who don't follow their neatly laid down little rules, who don't pander to their fastidious little "world-view" that everyone should be like them, well - because they are.

Of course, we know how these parties operate in these patriotic little messages, don't we? First, they proclaim their wonderment at the world around them and their awe at how their God created everything that makes South Africa so wonderful to live in - and then they swiftly begin to point out the faults they find with this very creation - namely us gay folk who love each other just to defy them and to get our hands on "their children", and us trans folk who put on "gender-inappropriate" clothing just to spite them and to make them feel uncomfortable and vulnerable while using public restrooms.

After all, you never know when the gent standing at the trough beside you might happen to glance down at your tool, or doesn't actually have one of his own - yet. And we all know how transgender people flock to use the ladies room to prey on helpless "real" women, and if we're really lucky, children as well.

Yes, South Africa is an incredible country all right. Aside from the fact that some people living here will actually believe the false bullshit stereotypes above, some people seem all to eager to give up on their lives here - in fact, many already have. They've packed it in and left for greener pastures in other lands, under other skies. On the other hand, many are starting to realize that they can't do that.

Whether because of insufficient resources or whatever reasons, they find themselves stuck here and have resigned themselves to whatever comes next. Others again, like me, don't want to leave. And why should I? This is my home too - and I have as much right to live here, with as much equality and civil and human rights as anyone else. I'm not giving up without a fight. And believe me, it has sweet stuff-all to do with sweeping vistas and the abundant ecology or which religion some claim this country "belongs" to.

"This is my land - what kind of man would I be if I did not try to make it better?" - Bayleon, Kingdom of Heaven. There is a lot of good stuff in that movie that will teach you a lot about religion, if you are open to learning it.

Some people even believe that not since 1994 has one single election been free and fair, that it wont be for a long time, and that the only way the ANC will give up power is if they are forcefully removed. "The elections are rigged." is their point of view, so why bother voting?

That's an interesting rumor - in my opinion, one which is spread to make people disinterested in voting. Would the opposition parties who so vocally exposed the corruption in the arms deal and various other scandals that rocked the ruling party in the last 20 years or so, sit idly by and say nothing at all if they caught even a hint of unfair practice and election rigging? I think not. The whole world would know about it in an instant.

Some even feel that politics is a dirty business and use that as an excuse to not be involved. They even think that politics should be abolished and replaced by "some other system" that would work better and take all the effort out of running a country fairly and squarely. Uhuh. I hear you.

Of course, that has been tried in times past, it's not a new idea. Back in the old days, when people were too lazy to take care of their own affairs and didn't want to think for themselves or to shoulder the burden of their own responsibility, there were governments that did exactly that for them. It was called absolute monarchy - and fascism.

Correct me if I'm wrong - but didn't we just ditch one of those governments back in 1994?

That's right, fascist governments do all the thinking for you, like the "good ol' days" under the Apartheid regime. And so for that matter, do absolute monarchies - in fact, so does any government where the people have handed over their responsibilities to some enterprising individual to run for them, and to do with as they wish, and are then too afraid to stand up against.

To "abolish politics" means to abolish democracy - which means a totalitarian state. There is no way to make that work in the best interests of the people - take away elections and politics and you take away the accountability of politicians and government to the people. Take away the blood, sweat and tears that define keeping a democracy democratic and in the hands of the people, and you take away the significance of democracy and risk losing it.

Democracy is government by the people, and for the people. Without the responsibility weighing on the people, and without the involvement of the people - all you have left is GOVERNMENT.

Government is supposed to be the embodiment of the will of the people, and not something feared by the people and which oppresses and controls them. No matter which way you look at it, even if it doesn't always run smoothly, democracy is the best compromise between fascist dictatorships, absolute monarchies and total anarchy - and has been ever since there have been governments.

Many Pink folks I know are disinterested because they feel politics excludes them. Wrong. There are many political parties who specifically target us and use us as scapegoats for the world's ills - so we don't need to feel left out at all *wink*. Of course, if they took the trouble to dig a little, they would see that there are literally one or two political parties who are in full support of the Pink Community, and not just in terms of paying lip-service. Some even feature a high number of pink folks among their representatives - and once you know this, and realize it, you begin to see just how thin and absurd that continued excuse for us to remain on the outside, looking in gets.

Not knowing about politics (and democracy) and how it works, and not wanting to be involved because it's a "dirty business" is exactly what keeps people like JZ (and Mugabe) in power. If there are structures available to us to get involved and to protect our democracy and our civil rights, we should be making us of them - not making excuses about why not.

So many of the people I know, pink or straight, are apathetic and disinterested in politics. And the sad thing is that if they are not interested in what happens in politics, then they really aren't interested in protecting their own freedoms and rights. Do they think the clauses in the Constitution that protect our civil rights got there as if by magic, without any blood, sweat or tears? Do they think for one moment that they will just stay there without the same level of commitment from our community?

Sitting on the sidelines and pointing out the missed spots isn't going to help anyone left out in the cold much. You can be excused for not knowing how it works - but you can't be excused choosing to stay ignorant. Being interested doesn't require a lifetime commitment of service in politics, or joining a political group - it just takes being interested in current affairs, knowing how it affects your rights, and when it comes to it, exercising your right to vote, to petition or assembly or demonstration.

Yes, politics is a dirty business - why? Because it is a constant battle to secure and guard human rights, freedom, equality and democracy, against people who don't like to play nice - the mad, the vicious and the vile. Is it not worthwhile?

The solution to this ignorance and apathy is to read the manual, roll up our sleeves, pick up a shovel and start cleaning it up ourselves.


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to or use the Contact form.

All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you.

    I´ve always been astounded that ¨straight¨ people seem ¨overinterested¨ in the sexual activities of LGBTI people (the reverse isn´t true).

    Best to you,