When I wrote about The Spear yesterday I said that some people described the painting as “an attack to the very value and moral systems of the majority African people.” I said such criticisms were needed to make sure that we are able to progress in our ethics but now, as more reactions to the painting have come to light, I feel that perhaps that attack on the moral systems of the majority is actually a compliment.
While I am all for criticism and debate on any subject I do not support intimidation and violence as a response to discussion. The painting, offensive as it may be to some people, is not violent and makes no such calls to violence but the “majority” do not seem to share that. Ironically, as they protest this supposed insult and violation of someone’s rights they see no problem in doing the same in real terms as opposed to just artwork.
The gallery owner has received death threats over the painting, whose offence is not so great that it is equal to a person’s life. Enoch Mtembu from the Nazereth Baptist Church has called for the artist to be stoned to death. And two people, one a university professor, have been arrested for defacing the picture. That is destruction of someone’s property in response to something that probably had nothing to do with them.
This culture of violence and aggression is certainly not limited to a few outliers. The ANC is already going to court over the matter and has called for their supporters to mass around the courthouse as a show of solidarity. That’s not solidarity, it’s intimidation. You do not need such a mass of people for a court proceeding. Of interest though, the court case will be broadcast live on TV.
This same violence is present in many news stories from the last few weeks. A DA march was forced to retreat after rocks were thrown at them. Taxi drivers, with unreasonable demands such no traffic enforcement at peak times (reading between the lines, they are going to break the law and they’re sick of having getting in trouble), overturned bins and threw rocks and bottles at police. At the court case of two men accused of murdering right-wing leader Eugene Terreblanche we had one group of people singing “Shoot the Boer” while another were there dressed in camouflage uniforms. Not to mention that all the time people are killed by mobs when they are merely suspected of committing crimes. Even if they were guilty that response is not acceptable.
South Africa cannot progress when the reaction to any slight is to respond with violence. The South African examples stand in stark contrast to a similar situation from Canada, described by Pierre De Vos. I look at the way people are behaving in this country and I can’t help thinking that if this is the “very value and moral system of the majority African people” then it should be attacked and to not be a part of it is a compliment of the highest degree.