Every clip, post, report and news item seems saturated with the rot of corruption, whether it’s Zuma, Trump, Cameron or Clinton. It’s a media avalanche: The flagrant abuse of power, of money and of privilege. And the message? That politicians, the rich and the powerful can operate illegally, unethically and dishonestly, and feel little or no consequence. It’s not an African or Western or White or Muslim problem; it’s a pervasive human one. And when I woke up to the morning news nightmares of Zuma and the Panama Papers and the Trump campaign, all I could feel was a rising rage. Now it’s important to note the word “rage” here. That extreme emotional reaction is underpinned by a sense of my own lack of power, and that is the very fear which every news report and social media splash is playing on. We are being immersed in the media of a collective horror pedalled by outlets from all sides, liberal and conservative. Immersive Media profoundly drives behaviour, so when we become immersed in this fear-mongering, our behaviour will be reduced to the most base and negative action – or inaction – and we run the risk of becoming complicit in the carnage.
So let’s reduce the problem to its simplest terms and ask just one question. What can I do? And not the dis-empowering, arms-in-the-air, it’s all a catastrophic avalanche, too large to contemplate response. Our, “What can I do?” needs to be the positive hardened steel of small and useful steps to break injustice wherever we can.
Of course Iceland and the Arab Spring and the end of apartheid are all telling us what to do. To stand up, to be counted and to use our voice. In whatever way, with whatever means. So let’s take a collective breath (and to start with just one small example, here’s a tweet that I posted earlier in the week but is just too lovely not to share again.)
Oh yes. We all do have a say. And let’s make it count. On reading the brilliant summation by Richard Poplak on the Daily Maverick, Trainspotter: Panama Papers – and as a man who is not inclined to mince words – he simply called them “scumbags”. What a breath of fresh air to not bother with even couching it. But before we wade in with our expletives and mockery and rage, we need to also consider our own context.
I am a white male. That already puts me into the most advantageous bracket of privilege on our little planet. So when I saw this Facebook by Siv Ngesi, I had to think very clearly about how and why I want to use my voice in the debate.
Dear white person, I dislike Zuma ,but you making fun of his English ,distracts me from disliking him to checkin you for your white privilege! Let’s hear your Zulu Damit!
I have to agree. So Zuma can’t count or speak English very well, but that’s not the front we need to launch the offensive from, and the only way to not attack him for these obvious inadequacies is to treat him with a measure of respect as a human being. Not because he deserves it! Because we deserve it. Because to be heard by the people who disagree with you and not merely squawk to your own converted tribe, you have to speak in a language and on a platform that can reach across the borders, not build more walls to protect them. To attack his use of language is to revert to racist stereotypes, and whatever you think of Zuma he is clearly no fool. He certainly took us all for a ride with deft political engineering.
So, what can I do?
For me personally, there are a few ways forward. The very first is to momentarily forget this big picture and focus on my immediate environment. Right now, my hubby and I have been ripped off to the tune of 13 thousand rand by a company that might have vanished into thin air. What is needed here is to not simply let this go. Yesterday we contacted a lawyer and started the process of suing these crooks. Not because we’ll get the money back, but because each of our tired, “what good will it do” responses is the compounded attitude that has allowed the likes of Zuma to flagrantly steal from us. Because while we will not see that money, we might stop the next time it happens or prevent someone else suffering a similar fate. We make others aware and inform our own network loudly and clearly as to what is, and is not, acceptable.
The next step, for me, is to play my part in reaching out. I want to help people find a voice – so that we can laugh, and rant and share our common experience and find a little inspiration to change our world. Easy? Nope. But that’s the challenge. So here we go.
First up is this Vlog from the Naked Ape, who took a moment to give his bewilderment at some of this moving catastrophe.
Well, what about inspiration? I looked back at the promos for the show Miracle Rising that we made for History two years past and found a little bit of beautiful. There are some people you might recognise. Some of them might very well be on that list of shareholders in some Panamanian companies, or not, I don’t know – but they are just the messengers.
Oh, and by the way, this will never end. Our work or fight or voice or, however you see this, will never stop. Let that myth of a Hollywood ending go. Life is a constant daily battle to do the right thing. If you change your expectation of a final goal to one of the steady and constant challenge you will avoid an abyss of disappointment.
Brett Lotriet Best is the Founder & Creative Director of EdenRage Media, check out their Immersive Media work at www.edenrage.tv.