The repeated use of human excrement in recent protest actions in the Western Cape shows that people have lost their respect for humanity or their elders.
Years ago during consumer boycott campaigns during the years of apartheid young men and women – in fact teenagers – would confront women and men who were old enough to be their fathers, mothers and grandparents at the terminus and train stations. They would search their handbags or shopping bags for groceries as they were getting out of the taxis, busses and trains.
If they spotted them carrying any shopping bags or groceries they would capture them. There was a sanction they would use. These youths would force their elders to drink OMO washing powder as their punishment for not “staying-away” or boycotting. This was an ultimate insult and total disrespect for elders.
The youths would even take it further. They would sjambok their fathers and mothers in the public squares.
All it took for this sanction was for you to be accused of some or other contravention of the instructions by the leaders or for another person to accuse you of some crime, gossip or cheating.
The youth were so volatile and the leadership so fanatical, that anything would go. People would respond based on their immediate feelings controlled by the mass hysteria in the air.
I imagine the same mass euphoria is upon us; bringing with it the same atmosphere of disregard, cruelty and excessiveness. Packaged in this mass euphoria is the need to insult or injure someone.
In the 1980s and the years of the struggle this euphoria drove the youths from their ease of conscience to sjambok adults to their ease to put a tyre around someone’s neck. I don’t quite know how the ‘necklacing’ came about. Who could have sat down to think this through as a strategy?
Maybe, it just happened that a group was at its peak, drunk with rage; and someone saw a tyre and just put matches and fuel to it. Maybe that’s how the ‘necklacing’ came about.
What would be the progression of the current faeces-throwing?
First kick down toilets in the townships; then throw faeces on the streets; then throw it at government vehicles; then throw it at the ruling officials. What is the next stage?
There is also another driver here, “to make someone feel what I feel.” The revealing question that needs to be answered is, “what is the degree of this feeling?”
Hurting people hurt people
Are the people hurting? How hurt are they? Are they angry? How angry are they? Hurting people hurt people.
Putting a burning tyre around a person’s neck must be really hurting – hurting, not only for the person being burnt alive, but also for the perpetrator participating in the killing. The perpetrator must be so hurt that his hurt mutes the hurt and screaming of the person he is killing.
How hurt are the people throwing the faeces? What happy, healthy and hopeful adult would collect their faeces or a neighbour’s by hand, stuff it in a plastic bag or container and then take a 30 to 45 minute train ride with the faeces and smell; ignoring the humiliation and laughter while his children, neighbours and passengers are watching.
How hurt are the people throwing the faeces; and how badly do they want others to feel the same hurt?
The prophet Jeremiah (chapter 51 verse 8) recorded a cry for Babylon, “Bring balm for her pain; Perhaps she may be healed (King James Version).”
Isn’t it time for the Church to dispense some medicine in South Africa?